NORTH CAROLINA, USA — Since the first case of the coronavirus was identified in North Carolina Tuesday, the attorney general is advising the public to be wary of scams.
Attorney General Josh Stein says now is the time that criminals are on the lookout to take advantage of people.
"What crooks do is when something big like this happens, some big news that provokes widespread fear or distress or desperation, like a hurricane, for instance, they will come out of the woodwork to steal peoples hard-earned money," said Stein, "What we want is for people to be aware of those types of scams so they can protect themselves."
Stein said the most common scam is someone selling snake oil.
"Folks are afraid. They don’t want to catch this illness and so people will pitch 'Oh I got a product that will prevent you from ever getting this sickness,' or 'If you have the illness, it will make it so you don’t feel anything,'" said Stein
"There is no vaccine for this disease yet. They’re working hard to develop one, but it doesn’t exist. There is no magical cure," he said.
Stein said a crook can try and scam you by overpricing a product.
"Even though there’s a legitimate product like hand sanitizer or something like that, somebody will sell it for some astronomical amount of money, and even when these products are hard to find because people are making a run on them, if you just take a little more time and do a little more searching you can find them at a reasonable price," said Stein.
This tactic sounds similar to the price gouging law that goes into effect when something like a hurricane is coming our way.
Stein said that law only takes effect when a state of emergency is declared. Since that hasn't happened, he said that law doesn't currently exist.
Be on the lookout for fake charities or fundraisers claiming to help raise money for affected families of the coronavirus.
"When something like this comes up, they will create fake charities in order to get people to send money to help people because there are families that are in distress and need help," said Stein, "just be very wary of anyone saying give money to me and I will take care of a family suffering from this disease or some other pinch they’re making."
Stein said to give his office a call if you have questions about whether a product or charity is legitimate.
"We have people who answer phones. It’s a toll-free number 877-5NO-SCAM and my folks can advise you if somethings a violation of the law or if it’s a legitimate purchase," said Stein.
FACTS NOT FEAR
Remember facts, not fear when talking about the coronavirus. You should take the same measures recommended by health leaders to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses. That means washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and covering coughs and sneezes.
WHERE YOU GET INFORMATION ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS IS IMPORTANT
It is important to make sure the information you are getting about the coronavirus is coming directly from reliable sources like the CDC and NCDHHS. Be careful not to spread misinformation about coronavirus on social media.
NC CORONAVIRUS HOTLINE
The state also has a special hotline set up where you can call 866-462-3821 for more information on the coronavirus. You can also submit questions online at ncpoisoncontrol.org or select chat to talk with someone about the virus.
You can also text keyword VIRUS to WFMY News 2 at 336-379-5775 to find out more information.