Guidance on Coronavirus Resources and Warnings about Consumer Scams
There have been several cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) confirmed in New York and across the country, and it is imperative that individuals are prepared and informed during this time. In addition to health information, New Yorkers must know about the resources available to them and warnings about potential consumer scams related to COVID-19. Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. While all New Yorkers should remain vigilant and ensure they are informed, there is no cause for great concern or panic.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is actively monitoring retailers for potential incidents of price gouging of necessary goods and entities selling bogus medical treatments that purport to effectively treat or cure COVID-19. Since mid-March, Attorney General James has issued several “cease and desist” orders to companies making phony health claims, including to entities marketing products as treatments for the coronavirus even though there is currently no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent the disease or treatment to cure it.
In order to effectively educate and prepare consumers, Attorney General James offers the following tips. If you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, price gouging, or sold a fake medical product, please report those incidents to the OAG.
Consumer Protection Tips
- Beware of scammers selling bogus medical treatments and learn the facts about the coronavirus. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent the disease, so ignore offers promising otherwise. Stay informed about the disease by visiting the websites of the:
- Report retailers that appear to take unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services that are vital to the health, safety, or welfare of consumers for an unconscionably excessive price. Report such incidents to the OAG.
- Use caution when making charitable donations. You should never feel rushed or pressured to donate, and never make donations in cash, by gift card, or by money wire. If you receive a charitable solicitation, do some research to determine whether the charity is legitimate, here are some helpful resources that provide lists of reputable charities and those that adhere to accountability standards:
- Beware of Coronavirus-related investment scams. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently warned investors about coronavirus investment frauds. If investors are aware of or suspect securities fraud or wrongdoing, they can contact the OAG’s Investor Protection Bureau.
Suspension of Medical and Student Debt Collection
In response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of COVID-19, the OAG will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debts that are owed to the State of New York and that have been referred to the OAG for collection, for at least a 30-day period, from March 16, 2020 through April 15, 2020. After this 30-day period, the OAG will reassess the needs of state residents for a possible extension.
The temporary policy will also automatically suspend the accrual of interest and collection of fees on all outstanding state medical and student debt referred to the OAG for collection, so New Yorkers are not penalized for taking advantage of this program.
Other Types of State Debt – Application for Discretionary Suspension of OAG Collection
New Yorkers with non-medical or non-student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG, may also apply to temporarily halt the collection of state debt. Individuals seeking to apply for this temporary relief can fill out the OAG’s “COVID-19 Application for Suspension of Debt Collection Activity.” If an individual is unable to fill out the online form, they can also call the OAG hotline at 1-800-771-7755 to learn more.
Health Insurance Questions
- If you have questions or concerns about health insurance costs related to COVID-19 tests or care, please call the OAG’s Health Care hotline: 1-800-428-9071.