Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Senator Kyrsten Sinema are warning residents to be on the lookout for COVID-19 related scams.
Both offices have reported an increase in communications from concerned Arizonans, including seniors.
Fake miracle cures and events, shopping thieves, door-to-door sanitization services, robocalls, official-looking phishing emails, and government impostor scams are all on the rise.
Con artists frequently take advantage of headlines and are currently exploiting the anxieties of vulnerable seniors over COVID-19.
“This is a vulnerable time for many and we can’t overlook the mental and emotional impact self-isolation can have on us all,” said Brnovich. “Now, more than ever, it’s important for Arizonans to remain in regular phone contact with their parents, grandparents, and other seniors to ensure their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are being met.”
“Arizonans should stay alert and look out for one another during this difficult time. For up-to-date coronavirus information, all Arizonans should listen to government scientists and specialists; they are experts and will help you stay safe, healthy, and calm,” said Sinema.
There are reports of thieves offering to go shopping for self-isolating seniors, only to take their money and never return with goods. Do not trust random strangers to shop for you. Many grocery stores have announced special early morning hours just for seniors. Seniors in need of assistance can contact the Area Agency on Aging’s 24-Hour Senior Help Line at 602-264-HELP (602-264-4357) or toll-free at 888-264-2258. Those hard of hearing or deaf can text 520-775-1899.
The Attorney General’s Office has received reports of individuals going door-to-door claiming they can sanitize homes and help keep seniors from COVID-19. There have also been reports of individuals claiming to work for the 2020 Census asking for financial information or money. The Census Bureau has suspended field operations until April because of COVID-19. You can still take part in the Census online.
MIRACLE PRODUCTS AND
COVID-19 VACCINESCon artists are calling and emailing consumers claiming to be from medical organizations that have a COVID-19 vaccination and require payments to buy a dose. They have flooded the internet with ads for sham treatments such as hand soaps, supplements, toothpastes, and essential oils. A recently canceled event scheduled for Phoenix promised supernatural protections against COVID-19. There is no vaccination for COVID-19 and there is no proven product to cure the virus.
In a variation of the miracle cure scam, fraudsters try to lure individuals to invest in companies that can supposedly prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19.
Scammers frequently contact seniors claiming to be from the government or private institutions seeking to get personal or financial information for a legitimate purpose. With discussions of possible financial help coming because of COVID-19, it is important to remember the government will not text you or ask you to pay anything up-front to receive benefits. The government will never call or text and ask for your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card number.
There are reports of Arizonans receiving text messages about being “prequalified” to receive money because of the “Virus Outbreak.” Financial help in the form of government checks are not yet a reality and anyone who tells you they can get you COVID-19 money now is a scammer. Legitimate government offices will not call and threaten to arrest you or penalize you for not providing personal information.
PHISHING EMAILSBoth offices are receiving reports of a spike in illegal robocalls, text messages, and emails being used by scammers to pitch everything from COVID-19 treatments to testing. Consumers should screen their calls and let answering machines and voicemail pick up calls from unknown callers. Place your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Fraudsters are also sending phishing emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Do not click on any unsolicited links. Do not reveal personal or financial information in email and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. If you have questions about COVID-19, seek information from the CDC and the WHO directly.
• Senator Sinema’s office has launched a page on her website providing COVID-19 related resources.
• Consumer fraud complaints can be filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office online, or call the Attorney General’s Office at 602-542-2124, 800-352-8431, or email email@example.com.
• For the most up-to-date information on the outbreak, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 website.
• Arizona Department of Economic Services COVID-19 related services.
• The Attorney General’s Office produces the Senior Scam Alert Series — a series of free palm cards with valuable information on popular scams, how to spot the scam, and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
• Seniors in need of help can contact their regional Area Agency on Aging for information on resources.
• The public can also dial 2-1-1 in Arizona to get general health information about COVID-19. The hotline provides information in English and Spanish.
If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you can file a consumer complaint by visiting the Attorney General’s website. If you need a complaint form sent to you, you can contact the Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-352-8431.