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Attorney General Jason R. Ravnsborg

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ATTORNEY GENERAL RAVNSBORG ISSUES ALERT AFTER REPORTS OF CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19) SCAMS TARGETING SOUTH DAKOTA RESIDENTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, March 31, 2020

 

PIERRE, S.D.Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is alerting residents to a wave of COVID-19 scams occurring as a result of the global Coronavirus pandemic.  These scams focus on all areas of consumer vulnerability, attempting to capitalize on the fear and rapidly changing developments being provided from state and federal leaders.

 

“I cannot stress strongly enough that it is as important to be vigilant of your business transactions as you are of your health precautions during this trying time,” stated Ravnsborg.  “Please use common sense when shopping online as well as in communications with those offering what seem to be too-good-to-be-true opportunities and remember that our Consumer Protection Division is always available to help.”

 

Common scams being reported to the Attorney General’s Office include, but are not limited to, the following categories – cyber scams, telephone and text messaging scams, counterfeit product offers, bogus door to door tests and virus-related products, and phony charity donation requests.

 

Cyber Scams

 

Be wary of all emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and other healthcare organizations, offering to share information about the virus. 

 

Take extra precaution to avoid spoofed or phony websites by only visiting websites with clearly distinguishable URL addresses.  Scammers seek to exploit individuals by directing web traffic to similar, but falsely identified website names where they can provide misinformation or attempt to gain consumers’ personal information or finances in exchange for pandemic updates.

 

Be on the lookout for emails asking for the verification of personal data, including Medicare or Medicaid information, in exchange for receiving economic stimulus funds or other benefits from the government.  Government agencies are NOT sending out emails asking for residents’ personal information in order to receive funds or other pandemic relief opportunities.

 

Telephone and Text Messaging Scams

 

Robocalls have been an ongoing problem for many South Dakotans.  During this difficult time, while working remotely or responding to a larger volume of phone calls, many find it difficult to ignore those from unknown numbers. 

 

If you find that you’ve answered a robocall – Hang Up.  Don’t press any numbers.  Scammers are calling with offers involving everything from COVID-19 treatments and cures, to work-from-home schemes.  The recording might say that pressing a number will direct you to a live operator or even remove you from their call list, but it also might lead to more robocalls.

 

Similar to email phishing scams, text messages from unknown sources may offer hyperlinks to what appears to be automated pandemic updates, or interactive infection maps.  These are just two examples of ways scammers can install malware on your mobile electronic device, putting you at increased risk for identity theft and financial exploitation.

 

Counterfeit Product Offers & High Demand Goods

 

Make sure to ignore offers for COVID-19 vaccinations and home test kits.  Currently, no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, medications, or other prescriptions or over-the-counter products are available to treat or cure the Coronavirus disease.  This applies to offers made online, in stores, by electronic message, or over the phone.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not authorized any home test kits for COVID-19.

 

As many have seen firsthand, some consumer products are in extreme demand.  Household cleaning products, sanitizers, personal hygiene products, and health and medical supplies may be offered via online or in-person sellers aiming to capitalize on under supplied or unavailable products. 

 

When buying online, be sure to research the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.”  If everything checks out, pay by credit card as opposed to debit card, and keep a record of your transaction.  If you are concerned about the pricing of products in your area, contact the Division of Consumer Protection at 1-800-300-1986 or ConsumerHelp@state.sd.us  or ConsumerResources.org, the consumer-facing website of the National Association of Attorneys General.

 

Bogus Door to Door Tests and Virus-related Products

 

To ensure your personal safety, DO NOT answer the door or allow into your home or residence any unknown individuals or business representatives moving door-to-door offering to sell consumer products, medical kits, vaccines, cures, whole-home sanitization, or in-person COVID-19 testing.  Contact local law enforcement to report such activities and, if possible and can be done so safely, alert neighbors, particularly seniors, of these concerning door-to-door offers.

 

Phony Charities & Donation Requests

 

Coming together in a time of need and extreme hardship is part of the South Dakota way; however, when disasters and life changing events such as the current pandemic occur, be cautious as to where donations are going. 

 

Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of good will and generosity by creating fictitious charitable organizations, seeking fraudulent donations by taking money which could otherwise go to those in need. 

 

Be sure to research where a charitable donation is going.  Contact the Attorney General’s Office for guidance or verification, or visit the charities page at South Dakota Consumer Protection or ConsumerResources.org for guidance on charitable giving.

 

When giving, always do so by credit card or other secure payment processer.  NEVER give by gift card, wire transfer, or other anonymous electronic payment processer.

 

REMEMBER – Misinformation and rumors create panic and disorder.  Always fact-check your source, messages, and the businesses you are engaging with.  Never provide personal information or money to those you don’t know or aren’t comfortable with.

 

Information & Links

 

For up-to-date national information on COVID-19, please visit:

 

https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus

 

For up-to-date information on South Dakota’s efforts at combating COVID-19 and keeping you safe, please visit:

 

http://www.covid.sd.gov

 

For information regarding SCAM prevention, assistance, and up-to-date tips, please visit:

 

http://www.consumer.sd.gov

 

ConsumerHelp@state.sd.us

 

Or call 1-800-300-1986

 

https://www.consumerresources.org/

 

https://www.ftc.gov/

 

https://www.fbi.gov/

 

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the State of South Dakota and provides legal advice to agencies, boards, and commissions of the State as well as representing the State in state and federal court.  The Office of Attorney General also handles prosecutions, felony criminal appeals, civil matters, consumer protection issues, and issues formal opinions interpreting statutes for agencies of the state.  Visit www.atg.sd.gov to learn more.  

 

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CONTACT: Tim Bormann, Chief of Staff, (605) 773-3215