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Attorney General Reyes Warns Utahns on Fraud and Price Gouging During Virus Emergency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2020


FRAUD AND PRICE GOUGING DURING VIRUS EMERGENCY
Attorney General Reyes: “I Want Citizens and Consumers to be Protected.”
 

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes continues to alert both consumers and merchants of scams and price gouging which are a serious, potential threat to the health and well-being of citizens in the State of Utah.
 
Scams
Right now, health threats from the coronavirus are affecting people’s physical, mental and behavioral well-being and are the most pressing concerns. While we are focused on those emergencies, predators will try to take advantage of people’s uncertainties and fears.
 
“Our office is receiving questions and concerns about phone calls, emails and websites that are potentially frauds or scams,” Attorney General Reyes said. “As Utahns, we are known for generosity when it comes to donating and supporting others in emergencies. We also tend to be very trusting. Both are great qualities that can be potentially exploited during emergencies.” 
 
“Scams and fraud proliferate during natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina,” Reyes continued. “The Utah Attorney General’s Office and Utah Division of Consumer Protection continually work together to investigate and prosecute these types of cases.”
 
Scams may come in the form of requests for charities that don’t exist or donations to causes that sound real but are not.

  • Simply because someone calls you and uses the name of a recognized charity doesn’t mean they are legitimate. If someone contacts you asking for money or your personal information, you can always hang up and call the business or entity back at a number that you can confirm.
  • No government agency will call you for payment over the phone or by wire. Before you send any money to help others, particularly via wire, cash or on a debit card, please check with a trusted advisor or contact the Division of Consumer Protection or Attorney General’s Office. 

Price Gouging
The Utah Attorney General’s Office and Division of Consumer Protection are becoming aware of several allegations of price gouging due to the temporary shortage of certain consumer items in stores. Unlike some states, our legislature passed laws to outlaw this conduct during emergencies. The Governor has now declared a state of emergency so our anti-gouging laws are in effect and penalties can be enforced.
 
Remember, excessive price inflation during emergencies is against the law. (Utah Code 13-41-101-202, Price Controls Under Emergencies Act). 
 
We hope this warning gives offenders a chance to do the right thing and stop the exploitation,” Attorney General Reyes said. “But if they don’t, they are in danger of state enforcement. Taking advantage of this tragedy for the sake of profit is NOT acceptable.”
 
Attorney General Reyes points out that some mark-ups will in fact reflect the scarcity of items and is acceptable under the statute.
 
Items like baby formula or medicine, toilet paper, bottled water, batteries, hand sanitizer filtering masks, etc. are among the items that can be typically marked up. Sellers should review the statute with their legal counsel if they have any questions.
 
We are working with our friends at the Division of Consumer Protection on both price gouging and scams, and they are working hard to investigate complaints.
 
If you notice incidents of price gouging, please call their office 801-530-6601 or 1-800-721-7233, or visit them online at consumerprotection.utah.gov.
 
If you suspect criminal fraud has occurred, you may also reach out to the Attorney General’s Office at 801-366-0260.
 

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Scam artists abound: Don’t fall for it.

Did someone contact you from the AG’s Office asking for money? 

It probably wasn’t us. It was a scam.

Don’t send them anything.  Call us instead: 801-281-1200.

Scam #1: Bogus Grant Program
Recently, scammers impersonating the attorney general have contacted victims through Facebook Messenger offering a grant worth thousands of dollars — for a small fee (see the screenshot, below). The scammer directed the victim to a bogus personal page where they went through a series of grant application questions. Once the application was “approved”, the victims sent payment and received a grant check in return. The check bounced, of course, but by then the scammer had disappeared, along with the victim’s money.

Scam #2: Arrest Warrant 
Just this week, someone impersonated the Utah Solicitor General and told a victim he had a warrant for his arrest.  The scammer said the victim would go to jail unless they sent personal information and a payment.  The scammer then used this information to drain the rest of the victim’s accounts. 

These are just two recent examples of many creative scams out there.  The goal in each case is the same: to fool you into sending money. Don’t do it. 

You can beat the scammers. Here’s how. 

1. Don’t wire money.
True lotteries, sweepstakes, or grants awarded do not ask for money – not for shipping and handling, taxes, or customs. State officials and agencies do not typically ask people to send money for prizes, grants, unpaid loans, or to keep from being thrown in jail. When they do, they follow a very formal process that you would recognize as legit.

2. Take a moment and think before you do anything.
Check with a trusted friend, family member, or your local Better Business Bureau. If the offer references a state agency or official, contact the respective office to verify its validity before moving forward. Do not let anyone bully you. If that starts, hang up. Report scams to law enforcement.

3. Do not share your financial or personal information. Ever. 
If you receive a call about a debt that you believe may be legitimate, call that company directly.

4. Don’t trust a name or number. 
No matter what name they use or how official an offer may sound, scammers lie. Also, scammers can disguise their number to look more legit. Often, calling the number back results in a message of “this number is not in use”. 

No matter what, don’t send money. You won’t get the grant. You will not be thrown in jail. You won’t get it back. 

5. Contact us.  If you receive a message, call, or email from someone claiming to be someone from our office or any other official, please contact our office to report and verify whether or not it is real.  We sometimes collect money following a court decision but we rarely do it by phone. We don’t do it via social media. You can contact us at 801-281-1200 or uag@agutah.gov. 

 

Screenshot of a bogus grant program. Report this to us. Do not send money. 

Utah Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Warns Utahns of Telephone Scam Spoofing Utah State Treasurer’s Office Phone Number

Fraudulent Callers Claim to be IRS Agents Collecting Back Taxes

SALT LAKE CITY October 17, 2016 – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced today that the Office of the Attorney General has received reports of Utahns receiving fraudulent, unsolicited phone calls from aggressive individuals claiming to be IRS officials collecting back taxes. The fraudulent callers are spoofing the Utah Office of the Treasurer’s phone number (801-538-1042) to gain credibility. The Office of Utah State Treasurer does not collect taxes (federal, state or otherwise).

The fraudulent callers demand the victim immediately pay a bogus tax bill via credit card, pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim does not cooperate, they are intimidated with threats of arrest, deportation or other harmful measures.

The IRS website advises if you receive a call and do not suspect you owe federal income tax:  

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you receive a call and know you owe federal income tax or think you may owe federal income tax:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.  
  • Stay alert to scams using the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not only at tax time. For more information visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Please also feel free to contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-244-4636 or at https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/contact-us.

 

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