Ohio agency warns consumers of new scam

Staff Report

COLUMBUS — An agency in Ohio is warning consumers about a scam from people working the fears over the coronavirus and asking for sensitive personal information.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency has received reports of scam calls to Ohioans from individuals claiming to be from the agency and asking for information including Social Security numbers.

The Emergency Management Agency does not call residents and ask for protected personal information, Executive Director Sima Merick said.

“If you receive such a call, it is a scam. Please hang up the phone,” Merick said.

Representatives of agencies in Ohio and West Virginia in recent weeks have warned residents of scams and laws that protect consumers during emergencies such as the COVID-19 declarations and orders from the governors of both states.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has warned against price gouging during a state of emergency and warned landlords about alleged threats to evict tenants during the pandemic. State law prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct and protects tenants from unjust eviction, he said.

“Many workers understandably have deep concerns about keeping a roof over their families’ heads,” Morrisey said. “I get that landlords and property managers have a bottom line, but in this crisis, we must unite and work with one another. Now is neither the time nor the place to play on people’s fears with threats of eviction. To do so is frankly unconscionable.”

In Ohio, Attorney General Dave Yost said the Consumer Protection Section has received complaints of price gouging, including for surgical masks and toilet paper. State law bans unconscionable sales practices, which could include dramatically increasing the price of products because of current events, Yost said.

Sherry Maxfield, director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, also warned consumers about emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other expert sources offering special advice or information about coronavirus disease 2019. Legitimate information is available for free from the CDC coronavirus.gov or from the Ohio Department of Health at coronavirus.ohio.gov.

Other precautions include:

¯ Ignore advertisements promoting cures for COVID-19. No medications are available to prevent, treat or cure.

¯ Do not invest in businesses touting products, services or cures for COVID-19. Scam artists use the market downturn and the pandemic to scare people to invest in so-called “safer, guaranteed investments.”

¯ Research before contributing to nonprofit organizations and crowdfunding campaigns. A database of registered charities is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website. Avoid groups that pressure you into donating and never donate via cash, gift cards, wire transfer, or prepaid money card. These are the preferred payment methods of scammers.

¯ Ignore door-to-door salesmen offering coronavirus testing or temperature readings or requesting personal information. Immediately call law enforcement.

¯ Be cautious of emails and other attempts to “phish” for personal, financial, and medical information. When in doubt, do not share.

¯ Information on government stimulus checks is available from the Federal Trade Commission website and from reliable news sources. The government will not ask you to pay anything to receive this money and will never ask for your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number. Never give this information out.

¯ When online, avoid clicking on unknown links or pop-ups and never download any suspicious email attachment. Doing so could infect your devices with malicious software designed to steal your personal information or lock your computer until you pay a ransom.


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