PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Senator Kyrsten Sinema are teaming up to remind Arizona seniors to be on the lookout for new COVID-19 related scams. Both offices have reported an increase in communications from concerned Arizonans. Fake miracle cures and events, shopping thieves, door-to-door sanitization services, robocalls, official-looking phishing emails, and government impostor scams are all on the rise as the unethical try to gain access to the financials of Arizona seniors. Con artists frequently take advantage of headlines and are currently exploiting the anxieties of vulnerable seniors over COVID-19.
"This is a vulnerable time for many and we can't overlook the mental and emotional impact self-isolation can have on us all," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "Now, more than ever, it's important for Arizonans to remain in regular phone contact with their parents, grandparents, and other seniors to ensure their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are being met."
“Arizonans should stay alert and look out for one another during this difficult time. For up-to-date coronavirus information, all Arizonans should listen to government scientists and specialists; they are experts and will help you stay safe, healthy, and calm,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
SHOPPING THIEVES: There are reports of thieves offering to go shopping for self-isolating seniors, only to take their money and never return with goods. Do not trust random strangers to shop for you. Many Valley grocery stores have announced special early morning hours just for seniors. Non-profits have also offered to help seniors with shopping needs. Seniors in need of assistance can contact the Area Agency on Aging’s 24-Hour Senior Help Line at 602-264-HELP (602-264-4357) or toll-free at 888-264-2258. Those hard of hearing or deaf can text 520-775-1899.
DOOR-TO-DOOR SERVICES: The Attorney General's Office has received reports of individuals going door-to-door claiming they can sanitize homes and help keep seniors from COVID-19. There have also been reports of individuals claiming to work for the 2020 Census asking for financial information or money. The Census Bureau has suspended field operations until April because of COVID-19. Never allow anyone access to your house that you don't know or didn't request assistance from.You can still participate in the Census online.
MIRACLE PRODUCTS AND COVID-19 VACCINES: Con artists are calling and emailing consumers claiming to be from medical organizations that have a COVID-19 vaccination and require payments to buy a dose. The Internet has been flooded with ads for sham treatments such as hand soaps, supplements, toothpastes, and essential oils. A recently cancelled event scheduled for Phoenix promised supernatural protections against COVID-19. There currently is NO vaccination for COVID-19 and there is NO proven product to cure the virus.
In a variation of the miracle cure scam, fraudsters try to lure individuals to invest in companies that can supposedly prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an alert about investor fraud involving COVID-19 cures.
GOVERNMENT IMPOSTOR MONEY SCAMS: Scammers frequently contact seniors claiming to be from the government or private institutions seeking to obtain personal or financial information for a legitimate purpose. With discussions of possible financial assistance coming as a result of COVID-19, it is important to remember the government will not text you or ask you to pay anything up-front to receive benefits. The government will never call or text and ask for your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card number.
There are reports of Arizonans receiving text messages about being "Prequalified" to receive money as a result of the "Virus Outbreak." Financial assistance in the form of government checks are not yet a reality and anyone who tells you they can get you COVID-19 money now is a scammer. Legitimate government offices will not call and threaten to arrest you or penalize you for not providing personal information.
PHONE SCAMS / ROBOCALLS / TEXT MESSAGES / PHISHING EMAILS: Both offices are receiving reports of a spike in illegal robocalls, text messages, and emails being used by scammers to pitch everything from COVID-19 treatments to testing. Consumers should screen their calls and let answering machines and voicemail pick up calls from unknown callers. Place your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Fraudsters are also sending phishing emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). Do not click on any unsolicited links. Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. If you have questions about COVID-19, seek out information from the CDC and the WHO directly.
RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR SENIORS:
- Senator Sinema's office has launched a page on her website providing COVID-19 related resources.
- Consumer fraud complaints can be filed with the Arizona Attorney General's Office online, or call the Attorney General’s Office at 602-542-2124, (800) 352-8431, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For the most up-to-date information on the outbreak, visit the CDC's COVID-19 website.
- Arizona Department of Economic Services COVID-19 related services.
- The Attorney General's Office produces the Senior Scam Alert Series - a series of free palm cards with valuable information on popular scams, how to spot the scam, and how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
- Seniors in need of assistance can contact their regional Area Agency on Aging for information on available resources.
- The public can also dial 2-1-1 in Arizona to get general health information about COVID-19. The hotline provides information in English and Spanish.
If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you can file a consumer complaint by visiting the Attorney General’s website. If you need a complaint form sent to you, you can contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6648, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at (800) 352-8431.
Senator Sinema, a member of the Senate Aging Committee and the Senate Banking Committee, recently cosponsored and shaped the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020. It will protect seniors from falls, increase resources for chronic diseases, and expand access to home health care and caregivers. The bill passed the U.S. Senate and is now heading to the President's desk to be signed into law. Sinema also introduced the bipartisan Senior Security Act, which creates a task force at the Securities and Exchange Commission to protect seniors from financial crimes.
Attorney General Brnovich is a member of a bipartisan working group of state attorneys general titled "Protecting America's Seniors: Attorneys General United Against Elder Abuse." Last week, General Brnovich notified all financial and lending institutions that serve Arizonans and urged them to provide temporary and economic security to their customers in financial hardship during this unprecedented health emergency.
Below are examples of text messages from scammers offering money in response to COVID-19.