Information to Protect You from Scams & Misinformation
Vendors may attempt to capitalize on this health emergency by selling vital goods, such as hand sanitizer, medicine, or water, at exorbitant prices. This could prevent many Virginians from affording everyday necessities.
To file a complaint, you can call Virginia’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-552-9963, email Consumer@oag.state.va.us, or print and fill out this form.
Stimulus Payment Scams
With the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) distributing COVID-19 stimulus payments, scammers may use this as an opportunity to prey on vulnerable people. Below is guidance from the IRS to avoid these scams.
Scammers are looking to defraud the American public in a variety of ways, here are a few examples:
- Trying to get you to sign over your check to them.
- Using this as an opportunity to get you to “verify” your filing information to receive your money, using your personal information at a later date to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.
Here are some key things to keep in mind:
- The IRS will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).
- The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information - even if someone claims it's necessary to get your check. It's a scam.
- If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Don't click on any links in those emails.
- If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s a fraud - it will take the Treasury a few weeks to mail those out. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud.
Common scams include:
Phishing: Fraudsters posing as real businesses or government agencies will try to gain access to your personal information. Fake contact tracing efforts are a recent method for scammers to steal personal information. Legitimate contact tracers will not ask you to click suspicious links or for any financial information. NEVER provide your Social Security number, Medicare number, bank account information, or credit card information to anyone who contacts you unsolicited.
- Disinformation: We must make sure we are reading and sharing information from a trusted source, as spreading false information during a pandemic can be life-threatening.
- Fake charities: Before donating to any charity, research the organization using this Federal Trade Commission site.
- Government aid checks: The government will not contact you for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card information to give you your stimulus payment.
- Robocalls: If you receive a robocall, hang up and do not press any buttons. Government organizations like the IRS will never call you to demand payment by debit card or wire transfer, threaten immediate arrest, or ask you to make payments to anyone other than the U.S. Treasury.
Guidance from the Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission has published guidance to help consumers avoid misinformation and scams. See below for a brief synopsis.
- Ignore offers for online vaccinations or home test kits.
- Hang up on robocalls. These are illegal and pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
- Be cautious of emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information.
- Research charities before donating. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
The Federal Trade Commission COVID-19 website: click here.
CDC information on phishing and other scams: click- here.
- The National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline: 1-866-720-5721.
- The Department of Justice combating COVID-19 fraud website: click here.
- The U.S. Department of HHS Office of Inspector General website: click here.
- Department of Labor information on unemployment fraud: click here