CORONAVIRUS SCAM WARNINGS

Walter D. LeVine, the Director of Livingston Office of Consumer Affairs has again reminded us that the Coronavirus has spread globally, leaving sickness, death and vast economic loss in its wake. Plus, it has spawned scams and more may possibly come.

Most apparent is PRICE GOUGING. While many states, including New Jersey, has laws protecting consumers when businesses raise their prices more that 10% above their regular retail price. This happens frequently during emergencies and crises occur, usually depleting their inventory or supplies.

Sign Up for Livingston Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Do not give in to these situations, although in an emergency you may not have a choice.

Next is BOGUS PRODUCTS. Some sellers are advertising, on the Internet, in texts and across social media, non-existent or shoddy treatments, cures, remedies or safety products. This has been reported by the Federal Trade Commission.

Watch for emails ostensibly from the Centers for Disease Control and/or World Health Organization providing false information. Do not open these emails as they may contain computer viruses. Legitimate information can be obtained directly at their respective websites (cdc.gov/coronavirus and who.int/coronavirus).

Although many companies are working on possible treatments and vaccines, none have been approved to date. While some existing medicines have been reported as alleviating symptoms, these have not been approved for wide use yet.

Likewise, false VACCINATION offers are starting to turn up. Ignore offers for vaccinations, as while these are in the works, none exist yet and are probably more than a year away. Many domestic and foreign pharmaceutical firms and government researchers are working to find one, and announcements should follow discovery and testing.

Fake HOME TEST KITS are being offered also. Again, some are in the works, but have not been approved yet.

FAKE CHARITIES have arisen. Scammers always arise when a new crises or tragedy appears. You may get an email, text, phone call or messages on social media asking for contributions to assist a person who has coronavirus or their families. Do not clink on links to these sites, send money or give credit card information.

Always verify the legitimacy of the charity before donating. Some authenticating sites are GuideStar (https://www.guidestar.org), Charity Navigator (https://charitynavigator.org) or search charities at IRS.GOV.

Finally, be aware that scammers are promoting FALSE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES involving companies claiming to have or are developing products or services used to fight the coronavirus.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (www.sec.org) has issued an alert that it has become aware of a number of Internet promotions, including emails and social media posts, involving companies claiming that their products and/or services will prevent, detect or cure coronavirus and that their stock will rise in value dramatically. Included in these “research reports” are fictitious price ranges anticipated, especially among microcap companies.

In some cases, the promotors are using or will use “pump and dump” tactics whereby they cause an increase (“the pump”) in stock prices of stocks they already own, and then subsequently sell their shares (“the dump”), causing large losses to the unsuspecting new shareholders. This is prevalent in the microcap companies.

As he does always, he advises, be cautious, alert and do your homework, so you will not become another victim.