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Voice of the consumer: Report coronavirus scams, fraud and price gouging to Colorado AG

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Published: Mar. 16, 2020 at 5:26 AM MDT
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11 News lead Call For Action investigator Katie Pelton pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.

While concerns about the coronavirus continue to spread, so do the scams. I reached out to several experts to help you stay immune to the new schemes. The Colorado Attorney General's Office issued a consumer alert warning Coloradans about scams related to coronavirus.

“We often see fake products and right now people are desperate for measures to prevent them from catching it or to help them address what they think might be symptoms,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser. “There are no cures out there. If you see marketing cures to coronavirus, they are fake. They are trying to take your money.”

The AG said seniors are the most at-risk for the new scams.

“They are not only more vulnerable to the virus itself, they are more vulnerable to scams about the virus,” said Weiser. “So if you know people who are older, let them know to be careful, protect yourself and ask others before starting to go down a road that you may regret.”

I also checked in with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and they told me they are seeing companies selling fraudulent products online.

“We’ve been seeing a number of websites that are claiming to have some sort of treatment option or preventative option for the coronavirus,” said Richard Cleland, the assistant director of the Division of Advertising Practices at the FTC. “If you see a product out there on the internet that’s being promoted to prevent or treat coronavirus, don’t buy it. In fact, what you should do is report it to FTC or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).”

Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning about several different approaches the crooks are taking right now.

“Phishing messages, whether that’s a text or an email phishing for information by claiming to be from the World Health Organization or, ‘Click here for your free vaccine or additional information about how to protect yourself.’ Just ways that they’re trying to get additional information from citizens,” said Adah Rodriguez, the vice president of Development and Operations with the BBB of Southern Colorado.

“I’ve certainly noticed personally, if you want to try to get hand sanitizer, you can get hand sanitizer for $67 a bottle,” she added. “People are taking advantage of the situation by reselling some of these items online for extreme prices.”

The best thing you can do is do your research and watch for red flags. If you notice price gouging, scams or fraud, you can report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling Stop Fraud Colorado at 800-222-4444 or online at

. You can also report scams to the BBB at

.

I also want to let you know that this week is the Meals on Wheels Champions Week. Silver Key Senior Services offers home delivered meals for seniors through Meals on Wheels. Silver Key said their service is critical now more than ever because many seniors are following the advice to avoid large public settings. Silver Key said because older adults are disproportionately affected by this virus, the need for volunteers is even greater right now. If you’d like to volunteer, donate, or sign up for Meals on Wheels, call Silver Key at 719-884-2300.

to read the original column on gazette.com.