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'We will come after you,' AG says to COVID-19 scammers

Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

Attorney General Mark Brnovich (Capitol Media Services file photo by Howard Fischer)

Arizona's attorney general has issued a warning to businesses and individuals that his office will hold them accountable if they exploit COVID-19 and try to scam state residents.

“Our consumer protection team is working hard to protect consumers during this difficult time, and we will continue to do so long after it ends,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a press release on Thursday. “There is no statute of limitations for the State to take action under the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act – so if you engage in fraudulent behavior today, you may think you can hide, but we will come after you if you violate the law.”

Three types of scams

According to the release, the Attorney General’s Office is closely monitoring all consumer complaints and advises consumers to be on the lookout for three types of scams in particular:

Government Check Scams

The federal government is considering a plan to send money to help people through this crisis, but a plan has not yet been approved. Government imposter scams are already frequent but are likely to become even more common under the current circumstances. Consumers must remember:

The government will never ask you to pay anything up front to get money, a credit, or a refund.

The government will never call and ask for your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card number.

The government will never threaten to arrest you for not providing personal information or ask you to purchase gift cards.

Work-From-Home Scams

With an increasing number of people at home and away from work, work-from-home scams are likely to rise. Consumers should keep the following six tips in mind:

Don’t Pay Money to Make Money: Legitimate businesses offer to pay you for your services. Scammers want you to pay them and promise that you’ll make it all back and more.

Why Do They Need You?: If someone is selling websites that will make a lot of money, guaranteed, why wouldn’t that person just run the websites on their own? If a business doesn’t have a good reason why it needs your help, it’s probably a scam.

Clean Reputation: Triple-check the reputation of a business before becoming involved. Interview other investors and customers, search the business and promoter’s name online with “scam” or “complaint,” and check with the Better Business Bureau for information on the company’s credibility. Online business scammers frequently change their names, so beware of companies without an established track record of success.

Risky Refund Policy: Online businesses promising a “No Risk Refund Policy” are red flags. This is a common term fraudsters use to reassure potential investors or customers, and pressure people to make a quick decision. Guarantees like this are rarely reliable.

Expert Opinion: Take the time to bring in a business lawyer, CPA, and other third-party, impartial business experts to vet potential opportunities before committing your resources. They’ll be able to assess the legitimacy of the business, as well as if there’s a potential to make a profit.

Time to Think: Most importantly, demand the time to think through any business opportunity thoroughly, rather than giving in to pressure to quickly make a decision before a “golden” opportunity passes.

COVID-19 Scams

Scammers are already trying to take advantage of the public focus on the COVID-19 virus. Consumers should:

Beware of any product or service promising to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19, as it’s unlikely the science supports the claim.

Avoid clicking on links in emails or texts, even if the link promises to provide important information about COVID-19.

Stay informed with the latest from the CDC’s leading scientists at CDC.gov, and keep your computer up to date with the latest security software and updates.

If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you can file a consumer complaint by visiting the Attorney General’s website, azag.gov/complaints/consumer. If you need a complaint form sent to you, you can contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at 602-542-5763, in Tucson at 520-628-6648, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at 800-352-8431.

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