Telephone and email scams increase whenever there’s a significant event that thieves can take advantage of, like hurricanes, floods, and now, a global pandemic. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission documented 18,235 reports of fraud related to COVID-19 between January 1 and April 15. Fraud victims reported losing $13.44 million.
Scammers thrive after major events like the COVID-19 outbreak because of the wealth of misinformation online, by word of mouth, and on some news outlets. Put simply, when you don’t know the truth, it’s hard to spot the liars. As Ohio’s premier consumer law attorneys, Luftman, Heck and Associates want you to be aware of the current COVID-19 robocalls and scams related to federal stimulus checks so you can avoid them.
If someone scammed you out of your hard-earned money, it’s also important to understand your legal rights and options. Attorney Jeremiah Heck and our team of consumer lawyers are here to help. Give us a call at (888) 726-3181 or submit your information online to request a free consultation.
Lookout for Coronavirus Scams
Robocalls or Texts Offering a COVID-19 Vaccine or Treatment
There are no confirmed treatments or cures for the coronavirus, even the drug used to treat Malaria, Hydroxychloroquine. So far, there isn’t enough evidence to determine whether any specific drugs safely and effectively treat coronavirus. The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of California has already brought charges against a doctor toting a “miracle cure.”
There also isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19 yet. Scientists typically need years to develop safe and effective vaccines. Currently, scientists are working around the clock to create a reliable vaccine against COVID-19.
Door-to-Door Sales of Test Kits, Masks, or Hand Sanitizer
Any materials offered for sale are almost certainly counterfeit. National and state governments are having trouble purchasing proper testing materials and personal protective equipment, like masks for medical providers. A salesperson at your door likely doesn’t have safe and effective materials that will protect you from the virus.
Federal Stimulus Check Scams
Thieves will use alleged issues with your stimulus check to get your personal information and access your bank account or credit. The U.S. Treasury Department or Internal Revenue Service (IRS) won’t call you. Neither agency will ask for your phone number, address, bank information, or social security number over the phone or through email. Don’t ever give out your personal or financial information.
Also, if you go to a website to learn more about your stimulus check, make sure it’s official. Sophisticated scammers use fake websites to get people to input their social security numbers and account and routing numbers. Some of these fake sites install viruses on your computer.
A common scam against seniors involve someone calling claiming to be a grandchild in need. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was common for scammers to claim they were in a crash or arrested. Now, they’re claiming they’re hospitalized for COVID-19 and need help paying the medical bills. Don’t wire anyone money or send cash through the mail, until you’ve confirmed the news with other family members.
Let LHA Ohio Consumer Law Attorneys Help
If you believe a fraudster has contacted you, report the scam to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 1-866-720-5721 or email Disaster@leo.gov. If you lost money because of a convincing scam, call Luftman, Heck & Associations right away.
Even if the robocall or text doesn’t constitute fraud or didn’t convince you, it might still be illegal. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) heavily regulates telephone marketing and robocalls. The company that contacted you might be violating the law, in which case, the Federal Communication Commission can enforce the law and fine the business.
Consumers may have a private cause of action against businesses that violate the TCPA. This includes violations pertaining to the improper use of robocalls. A consumer is entitled to $500 per violation as well as attorney fees if he or she prevails. In fact, this amount could be tripled to $1500 per violation if the consumer can prove the business willfully and knowingly violated the TCPA.
Our Ohio consumer law attorneys will thoroughly review your situation and determine if you’ve been the victim of fraud and any legal recourses available to you. If the company violated a federal or Ohio law, causing you financial harm, we could represent you in a civil action.