COVID-19 Arizona Consumer Protection Updates

Banner for COVID-19 Information page

 

The Arizona Attorney General Office is committed to protecting Arizonans and ensuring consumers have the access to the information they need to recognize and avoid consumer fraud.

Since COVID-19 reached the United States, fraudsters have been innovating new scams and schemes to take advantage of Arizona consumers. General Brnovich is dedicated to defending Arizonans, holding fraudsters accountable, and providing the public with the information that they need to not fall prey to these bad actors.

This webpage is designed to provide you and your family with important information to recognize and avoid COVID-19 scams and frauds.


COVID-19 Information

COVID-19 information is everywhere and some of that information is wrong. Ask yourself the following questions before trusting the information:

  • Who is the message from? Do I know them? Do I trust them? Am I positive they are who they say they are? Did I double check that they are not government impersonators?
  • What do they want me to do? Do they just want me to know something or are they trying to get me to act in some way? Do they want me to buy something, download something, or give up personal information?
  • What evidence supports the message? Did I use independent sources to fact-check it — or debunk it? Did I talk to someone I trust?

Always verify using a few additional sources. Once you’ve done that, does the message still seem legitimate and accurate? We can’t slow the volume of information coming your way, but we can help you protect yourself by approaching information with care. You should ask and answer these questions to help you sort out what’s helpful…and what’s a scam.


Unsolicited emails about COVID-19

The following tips will help you recognize and avoid scam emails intended to download malware on your electronic devices, obtain your personal information, and steal your money.

  • Beware of online requests for personal information. A coronavirus-themed email that seeks personal information like your Social Security number or login information is a phishing scam. Delete the email.
  • Check the email address or link. You can inspect a link by hovering your mouse button over the URL to see where it leads. Sometimes, it’s obvious the web address is not legitimate. But keep in mind phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Delete the email.
  • Watch for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors, it’s likely a sign you’ve received a phishing email. Delete it.
  • Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Greetings like “Dear sir or madam” are a sign that an email is not legitimate. Delete it.
  • Avoid emails that insist you act now. Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or demand immediate action. The goal is to get you to click on a link and provide personal information — right now. Instead, delete the message.

If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you may file a consumer complaint with the Office of the Arizona Attorney General online. For consumer inquiries, or to request a complaint form, call (602) 542-5763 (Phoenix office), (520) 628-6648 (Tucson office), or toll-free outside of metro Phoenix, (800) 352-8431.



COVID-19 Alerts

The following resources are COVID-19 related alerts and updates from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and other consumer protection experts across the country. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office also provides Consumer Scam presentations, which you can request here.

 

AZAG Scam, Action, and Advisory Alerts

  • AG Brnovich Issues Warnings Regarding COVID-19 Scammers. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich Warns About Coronavirus Scams. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich advises Arizonans to be cautious about work-from-home opportunities. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich warns Arizonans about family emergency scams a.k.a. Grandparent scams. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich issues warning letters to several gyms to change in-person cancellation policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information.
  • AG Brnovich asks Arizona lenders to provide temporary relief on mortgage and auto loans during COVID-19 uncertainty. More information.
  • AG Brnovich Issues COVID-19 Economic Impact Check Consumer Warning. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich Issues Cease-and-Desist to Phoenix Dispensary Over Advertising. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich Issues Cease-and-Desist Letter to Prepper’s Discount for Offering “Immunity” Tablets. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich and U.S. Attorney for Arizona Michael Bailey Launch COVID-19 Fraud Task Force. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich called on the FTC to strengthen consumer protections for Funeral Home Services. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich advises Arizonans to use safe internet practices when working from home and in online classrooms. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich warns Arizonans that “Sextortion” email scams are on the rise. Press Release.
  • AG Brnovich advises Arizonans that nursing homes cannot take CARES Act checks. Press Release.

Senior Scams

  • AG Brnovich and Senator Sinema issued a warning regarding new senior scams. Press Release.
  • Arizona Attorney General's OfficeSenior Scam Alert Series.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published an article about scams for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and often targeted for scams, those 60 and over. More information.
  • The FTC issued tips to avoid Grandparent scams in the age of Coronavirus. More information.
  • The FTC discussed what to do if an assisted living facility has taken your stimulus check. More information.

Bank Security

  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued a message that FDIC-insured banks are not at risk because of COVID-19. More Information.

Bereavement Scams

  • The FBI warned consumers about bereavement scams after a loved one has passed. More information.

Blackmail Scams

Charity Scams

  • The FTC warned consumers that scammers are using fake charities and provided tips on how to avoid those scams.
    More information.

Children

  • The FTC published information about virtual schooling and children’s privacy in a remote learning setting. More information.
  • The FTC published articles about Child Identity Theft and additional Parent Resources for keeping children safe online.
  • The Justice Department and the FBI warned parents and caregivers that increased online activity during the current health crisis presents more opportunities for internet child exploitation.
    More information.

College Students

  • The FTC warned college students that they’re being targeted for COVID-19-related phishing schemes designed to look like emails from educational institutions. More information.

Contact Tracing

  • The FTC warned consumers about contact tracing text message scams. More information.

Cryptocurrency Fraud Scams

  • The FBI advised consumers COVID-19-related cryptocurrency scams likely would increase. More information.

Cyber Scams

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned individuals to remain vigilant for COVID-19 related cyber scams. More Information.
  • The FBI warned that cyber-attacks will likely increase and provided information and tips on how to avoid them. More information.

Cybersecurity when Working from Home

  • The FTC issued security tips when working from home during the crisis. More Information.
  • The FBI and the CISA released guidance on defending against video-teleconference hijacking. More information.
  • The CISA issued an alert regarding malicious cyber attacks exploiting COVID-19. More information.
  • The BBB published an article to help individuals and business protect videoconferences from hackers. More information.
  • The FTC provided tips on staying safe while teleconferencing. More information.
  • The FBI warns that criminals are broadcasting child sexual abuse material on open meetings and events. More information.

Debt Collection

  • The FTC published an article about dealing with debt collectors during the pandemic. More information.

Debt Reduction Scams

  • The FTC published an article discussing scams which offer to reduce rates for student loans and provide loan relief. More information.

Delivery Frauds

  • The FBI warned consumers of individuals or companies citing fake “new laws” related to COVID-19 as justification for charging or demanding additional fees for shipping and product insurance. More information.

Financial and Economic Impact Payments

Financial Protection

Funerals

Government Imposters

  • The FDIC warned consumers that fraudsters are sending fake agency communications using real FDIC employees’ names. More information.
  • The FTC warned consumers about new COVID-19 government imposter scams. More information.

Housing

Medical Equipment

  • The FBI warns about increased potential for fraudulent sales of COVID-19-related medical equipment. More information.
  • The FTC warned consumers that scammers are selling facemasks and other important goods and fail to deliver those goods. More information.

Medicare

  • The Department of Health and Human Services warned about Medicare fraud schemes related to COVID-19. More Information.
  • The Senior Medicare Patrol provided tips for Medicare recipients and caretakers to avoid COVID-19 fraud. More information.

Military Servicemembers Financial Protection

  • The CFPB published information regarding financial assistance available to military servicemembers affected by the coronavirus. More information.

Pets

Pet Adoption Scams

  • The BBB warned that pet adoption scams using COVID-19 stay-at-home orders to manipulate victims are on the rise.
    More information.

Robocalls and Texts

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) warned of COVID-19 robocalls and texts. More Information.
  • The FTC published an article on how to recognize and handle COVID-19 robocalls. More information.
  • The FTC warned consumers not to click links in unsolicited text messages. More information.

Scams Generally

Scam Spotter

  • The FTC published its COVID-19 Scam Bingo card. More Information.
  • The CFPB published placemats, handouts, and activity sheets to help families and seniors recognize and avoid scams. More information.
  • The FTC has updated and upgraded econsumer.gov to make scam information more readily available to consumers.
    More information.

Social Media Scams

  • The FBI warned that social media trends can lead to sharing personal details that make consumers more susceptible to fraud. More information.

Social Security

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued a message that Social Security benefits will not be suspended because of COVID-19. More Information.
  • The FTC published tips to recognize and avoid Social Security scams trying to take advantage of COVID-19. More information and FTC video.

Student Loans

  • The CFPB published an article discussing what you need to know about student loans during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information.
  • The FTC published an article about CARES Act aid for those with student debt. More information.

Tech Support Scams

  • The FTC warns consumers to hang up on telephone calls received from someone claiming to be Tech Support and calling about a virus on your computer system. Press Release.

Testing & Treatment

  • FDA warned consumers about fraudulent coronavirus tests, vaccines, and treatments.
  • The FDA has authorized some at home testing kits for COVID-19, but do not trust at-home testing kits without verifying the test with your doctor or the FDA. More information.
  • The FBI warned of emerging health care frauds regarding COVID-19 testing and treatment. More information.
  • The FTC warned consumers about fake COVID-19 testing locations and provided tips about searching for tests. More information.
  • The FDA has identified and taken action against many identified fraudulent COVID-19 medications. New treatment scams will continue to arise, so do not trust COVID-19 medication or treatments without verifying it with your doctor or the FDA.
  • The FDA published an article about coronavirus testing basics. More information.
  • The FDA provided a guide to understanding FDA terminology for COVID-19 prevention and treatment. More information.

Travel

  • The FTC provided tips on how to deal with ruined travel plans. More information.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation clarified that consumers will receive refunds from airlines for ruined travel plans during the pandemic. More information

Work From Home Scams

  • The FTC warned consumers about work-from-home scams and provided tips and advice when looking for work during COVID-19. More information.
  • The FTC cautions consumers to research multi-level marketing companies before investing in them and warns MLMs to stop making unsupported COVID-19 claims. More information.

Common Scams

  • Business Email Compromise Scams
    • Bad actors are pretending to be institutions or companies that consumers do business with ordinarily.  They are contacting consumers with emails made to look like legitimate requests from these institutions or companies and requesting that funds and information be sent in a different way than normal due to COVID-19. Review the FBI’s tips and red flags.
  • Charity Scams
    • Scammers may solicit donations directly or through crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe. Before donating, do your homework. Ask for written information (including annual reports) about the charity before you donate. Find out how your donation is distributed and how much of your donation will actually go to the charity itself (compared to administrative costs). You can also use websites like charitynavigator.org to read important reports.
  • Door-to-Door Scams
    • Fraudsters are going door-to-door offering services that they claim will protect residents from COVID-19. Do not allow anyone to access your home that you do not know or have not asked to assist you.
    • Con artists are going door-to-door pretending to work for the census, and asking consumers for financial information and money. The Census has suspended field operations until April because of COVID-19.
  • Economic Stimulus Scams
    • Fraudsters are trying to steal money and information by engaging in Government Imposter Scams (see below for tips) and claiming to sign consumers up or qualify them for a stimulus check.
  • Fake Test Kit Scams
    • Scammers are selling fake at-home coronavirus diagnostic kits. At this time, the FDA has approved only one at-home testing product. Before purchasing an at-home testing kit, verify that it is approved by the FDA..
  • Family Emergency Scams
    • Scammers may use COVID-19 as a pretext for tricking consumers into thinking a loved one is in trouble and needs money immediately.
      • In the past, these scams often are phone calls where the fraudster pretends to be a grandchild or family member claiming to be in trouble or requiring immediate financial assistance.
      • Consumers who receive such a call should resist the urge to act right away and take steps to verify the caller’s identity.
      • Do not send gift cards, cash, or money transfers.
  • Government Imposter Scams
    • Scammers are pretending to be government employees to steal money and information. Remember the following if someone contacts you claiming to be from the government:
      • 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.
  • Internet Scams
    • Bad actors are creating fake advertisements claiming to have important information about COVID-19. Do not click on any link promising important information about COVID-19. Stay informed by going to the websites of reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Arizona Department of Health.
    • Stay informed by going to the websites of reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Arizona Department of Health.
    • Phishing Emails – Beware of emails claiming to be the CDC or the World Health Organization. Fraudsters are sending fake emails to gain access to your computer and financial information. Do not click any links in any unsolicited emails.
  • Miracle Product Scams
    • Scammers are selling fake treatments and cures for COVID-19. Beware of any product claiming that it can prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. Currently, there are no vaccinations and no proven cures for the virus.
  • Money Mule Scams
    • Fraudsters are asking consumers to help them move illicit funds through online jobs, dating websites, and apps.  Unless you are personally or professionally responsible for another person or entity, do not conduct financial transactions for anyone or give anyone access to your financial accounts. Review the FBI’s tips.
  • Mortgage Relief Scams
    • The FTC published detailed information regarding scams targeting homeowners in distressed loan situations.
  • Phone Scams
    • The number of scam robocalls, text messages, and emails regarding COVID-19 are on the rise. Hang up on robocalls, do not respond or click links in unsolicited texts, and do not click links in unsolicited emails.
  • Shopping Thieves
    • Fraudsters are offering to shop for self-isolating people. Do not trust random strangers to shop for you.
  • Work-from-Home Scams
    • Scammers are selling fake jobs, fake investments, and fake ways of making money working from home. Before engaging in a business venture from home, review the six tips.

Other Resources

The Better Business Bureau
The BBB is providing numerous consumer-education resources on how to avoid scams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers can also use the BBB's Scam Tracker to view reported scams and can research local businesses and scams at bbb.org.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The CFPB is providing consumers information about how to protect their finances during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Labor
The federal Department of Labor is providing COVID-19 workplace and employment resources for employees and employers.

The Federal Communications Commission
The FCC is providing Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration
The FDA is providing resources to consumers through its regularly updated Coronavirus Website and answers to many Frequently Asked Questions. The FDA also is offering recommendations on how to make a difference during the pandemic.

The Federal Trade Commission
The FTC is providing coronavirus advice to consumers including tips for recognizing and avoiding scams.

The National Association of Attorneys General
NAAG is providing guidance, tips, and alerts about how to avoid scams during the COVID-19 pandemic. NAAG also provides a wide range of helpful consumer protection information to consumers.

The United States Government
The federal government has created a central COVID-19 response webpage with resources and actions from across the federal government in response to COVID-19. In addition, Benefits.gov provides further information about specific federal government coronavirus resources.

The United States Postal Inspection Service
The USPIS is providing resources and tips on how to protect yourself from fraud generally and from mail scams. They are also maintaining tips on COVID-19 related scams specifically.