CARSON CITY, Nevada — Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford cautioned Nevadans to be aware of potential fake testing schemes, door-to-door scams, product claims and texting scams in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Law enforcement in Nevada have reported individuals visiting residents at their homes offering at-home testing kits, home inspections, or selling air filters and other cleaning products advertised as helping rid homes of COVID-19.
“Scammers are finding new ways to take advantage of this pandemic,” said Ford. “As my office continues to alert you about the latest scams in our community, I encourage every Nevadan to stay alert and report suspicious activity to my office.”
As with all suspicious door-to-door solicitors, avoid letting someone you do not know into your home.
Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics and do your research regarding any health-related claims.
Up-to-date information is provided on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov) and other trusted sites.
Additionally, the Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a text message scam in which the sender texts a link encouraging the receiver to claim emergency money for groceries to assist with the outbreak.
The link sends the user to a malicious site where the scammer can steal information such as email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, bank information and money.
Consumers should also take care when making online purchases for items such as face masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and other high-demand products. Certain illegitimate websites may trick you into paying a high price for products that never arrive, or may be fraudulent in nature.
If you already have provided information to a website you feel may not be legitimate, or have received a scam text, the Nevada Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection recommends the following:
Contact your banking institutions immediately to report fraud and cancel credit cards if you have provided financial information. These include cards used for all transactions or connected to your mobile device;
Report the fraudulent number to your cell phone carrier;
Block the phone number from your phone;
Change your passwords on sensitive apps such as online banking, social media, and any other space where personal information is stored. Always be sure to choose a strong password and enable multi-factor authentication;
Analyze and research product claims. Be sure to evaluate claims of any medical product before buying. Especially watch out for products claiming to offer a “miracle cure” for a range of ailments; and
Make purchases only from reputable stores and websites. Stick to websites you already know and trust.
Ford and his Bureau of Consumer Protection are working to monitor and investigate complaints that may violate consumer protection laws, including antitrust and deceptive trade practices. Thus far, the office has received nearly 100 calls and complaints from Nevadans related to COVID-19 scams.
Some of the tactics being employed against vulnerable Nevadans:
Coordinated increases in prices for goods or services;
Inflated consumer prices for cleaning, health supplies and water.
Use of false representations, particularly viral disinfectants and other products claiming to cure COVID-19
Use of intimidation tactics during a transaction.
“My office is using every tool and resource at its disposal to monitor and act against those individuals who would take advantage of our residents by inflating prices or deceiving them,” said AG Ford. “The full weight of my Bureau of Consumer Protection is actively working to monitor and protect Nevadans, especially those who might be particularly vulnerable and under duress during this predicament.”
The Attorney General’s Office is actively engaging with the Federal Trade Commission, its sister states, and websites and businesses such as Facebook and GoFundMe on misinformation and guarding consumers against fraud.
The office also is working with the Nevada Retail Association and other retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to help ensure there is no restraint of commerce and prices for goods and services remain reasonable.
The Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection reminds every Nevada consumer to do the following to avoid falling victim to scams:
Avoid clicking on links in emails or messages from people you do not know;
Be suspicious of any emails and posts claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control or other supposed experts. Updated information regarding the coronavirus is provided directly on the CDC website and other related websites such as the World Health Organization and Department of Health and Human Services;
Be skeptical of online promotions for treatments, cures or vaccines for coronavirus. If there were a medical breakthrough, it would not be advertised for the first time through a sales pitch; and
Do your research before donating to any relief or related charitable causes.
If you believe you have been victimized by these or any other scams, you may file a complaint with the Office of the Nevada Attorney General or with the Federal Trade Commission on its website.
Nevadans also may call the toll-free hotline at 888-434-9989 for assistance.