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State officials warn of ‘rampant’ scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic

Scammers are seeking to exploit individuals by contacting people about federal payments, testing, donation requests and high-demand items related to the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials say.

In a news release today, Attorney General Clare Connors and Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Stephen Levins described “rampant” scams in the form of phone calls, text messages, emails and even door-to-door sales pitches.

“People need to be extra observant and cautious at this time. Scams are rampant. Keep your guard up and don’t provide your personal information to anyone who contacts you by email or phone,” said Levins in the news release.

The scams include contact from someone claiming to be a government employee regarding the stimulus checks that is part of the recently signed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Qualifying adults will receive a $1,200 check, and qualifying minors will receive a $500 check.

Conners and Levins warn that scammers will likely ask for bank account information, social security numbers or credit card information and advise the public to never open attachments or links in emails or text messages from people claiming to be from the government. Government agencies are not sending out emails asking for personal information, they said.

They also advised to not press any buttons during “robocalls” and to just hang up. They also said only to visit websites with “clearly distinguishable URL addresses” and not to answer the door for unknown individuals selling COVID-19-related products. Conners and Levins advised the public to call police on people selling such products in person.

“In moments of crisis, we all must be extra vigilant against bad actors who try to take advantage of honest people,” said Connors in the news release. “Please exercise caution and commonsense in the weeks and months ahead.”

Cyber scams have included people claiming to be from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations asking for personal data, including Medicaid or Medicare information, in exchange for stimulus funds or other benefits.

Scammers are calling with offers that range from COVID-19 treatments to “work-from-home schemes.” They might also call about COVID-19 home test kits.

Conners and Levins also warned of scams of fictional charities looking for donations to fight the coronavirus. They recommend using credit cards or other types of secure payment and to never give to charities using gift cards, wire transfers or other anonymous electronic payment processors.

Guidance for vetting a charity can be found at the attorney general website or the National Association of Attorneys General website.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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