Attorney General Phil Weiser has issued a consumer alert warning Colorado residents about scams related to coronavirus.
There have been reports that scammers are setting up websites to sell bogus products and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts to lure consumers into giving money and personal information. They also may be asking consumers to donate to victims, marketing fake treatments, or sending malicious email attachments.
“Scammers take advantage of natural disasters and emergencies,” said Weiser. “By learning how to avoid scams related to coronavirus, we can work together to ensure no one in our state is taken in by these malicious attempts to defraud Colorado consumers during this public health emergency.”
Consumer information: How to avoid scams and other helpful tips
Consumers who observe price gouging or have fallen victim to such practices should immediately report the seller to Stop Fraud Colorado at 800-222-4444 or www.StopFraudColorado.gov.
What is price gouging?
Price gouging occurs when a seller substantially increases the price of a good or service above either (i) the price at which the product or service was sold in the usual course of business prior to the declaration of emergency or (ii) the price at which other reputable sellers offer the same type and quantity of the product or service. The increase in price must be more than is justified in the ordinary course of business and market fluctuations.
What products may be subject to price gouging?
The products subject to price gouging may include essential or basic medical, personal, or food supplies, including hand sanitizers, cleaning and disinfectant products, toilet paper, face masks, bottled water, and other food items.
Is price gouging illegal?
Although Colorado does not have a specific price gouging law, taking advantage of a state of emergency by unreasonably increasing the prices of essential goods and services may constitute unfair and unconscionable business acts and practices under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. Under that Act, the Attorney General is authorized to file suit against price gougers and may seek damages, injunctive relief, restraining orders, restitution, and civil penalties.
The Attorney General’s Office has been in contact with representatives from Amazon and Facebook to coordinate efforts to address potential price gouging on items such as paper products, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and soap, and other goods. The Attorney General’s Office, along with other State Attorneys General, have reached out to a number of online platforms regarding price gouging and have requested the platforms’ assistance in investigating and prosecuting these practices.
Do all price increases during a state of emergency constitute price gouging?
No. Sellers may have justified reasons for imposing increases on the price of a good or service during this state of emergency based on fluctuations in supply or demand. In determining whether price gouging has occurred, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office will consider the following factors:
- The price the seller charged for the product or service compared to either (i) the price at which the product or service was sold immediately before or (ii) the price charged by another reputable seller of a comparable product or service;
- Additional business costs imposed by the supplier or another party in the supply chain; and
- Additional costs of bringing the product to market because of a declared state of emergency.
- Do not panic and consult reputable sources for the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the World Health Organization websites;
- Do not let price gougers profit off your concern;
- Remember that not all price increases constitute price gouging. There may be legitimate reasons for why a seller may impose a small price increase;
- Take appropriate precautions to protect yourself personally and financially; and
- Immediately report price gouging practices to the Attorney General’s Office at 800-222-4444 or www.StopFraudColorado.gov.
- Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance
- Waiving late payment fees
- Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting
- Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days
- Working with borrower to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income driven repayment plans.
- Colorado Attorney General’s Office
- U.S. Department of Education
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Federal Trade Commission
If you are considering taking out a loan, be cautious when seeking loans from companies seen advertised on TV or online. These companies may be owned or affiliated with federally recognized Indian Tribes, which are not licensed or regulated by the state. While some of these advertisements or websites do include notice of Tribal affiliation, this is not always the case.
Colorado has found instances in which these companies have charged significantly more than the legal interest rate in Colorado and executed wage garnishments without a court order. Here is a list of lenders licensed and regulated by Department of Law.
Auto loans: If you are having trouble paying your auto loan payments your lender may have options that will help. You may want to consider requesting changing the date of your payment, requesting a payment plan, and asking for a payment extension. Colorado law provides borrower protections, including a notice and period of time to cure default before repossession and limits on late fees.
Check your credit reports: If you’re working with lenders on payment assistance programs or forbearance, routinely check your credit reports to make sure the statements are accurate and that any delinquencies have not been improperly reported. Your credit reports and scores play an important role in your future financial opportunities.
Debt Collection: If you currently have a debt in collections, you can work with collectors to identify a realistic repayment plan. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers a number of resources for contacting and negotiating with debt collection companies.
Charitable Donations: Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
Investment scams: Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.
General information and resources
- Attorney General Phil Weiser releases top consumer complaints related to coronavirus
March 31, 2020 (DENVER, Colo.)— Attorney General Phil Weiser today released preliminary data on the top consumer complaints reported to the Colorado Department of Law related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, consumers submitted approximately 300 coronavirus-related complaints, according to preliminary data, largely centered on pricing (37%) and refund (45%) issues. Other complaints include robocalls and texts offering either false deals with merchants, stay-at-home work schemes, or other inducements to get people to click on fake links. These links can then infect their devices or steal people’s personal information.
- Attorney General Phil Weiser warns about coronavirus relief check scammers
March 30, 2020 (DENVER, Colo.)— As the coronavirus public health crisis takes a growing toll on Coloradans, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser today issued a consumer advisory warning that scammers are already trying to take advantage of Coloradans by using the checks the federal government is scheduled to send many Coloradans as a part of the coronavirus stimulus package as bait to encourage Coloradans to share bank account numbers or other sensitive personal information.
- Attorney General Phil Weiser says speedy trial deadlines should be extended to keep Coloradans safe from COVID-19
March 23, 2020 — “I urge Colorado’s courts to recognize that, with the need to protect all trial participants from the deadly COVID-19 virus, trials should be rescheduled, and the speedy trial deadline should be recalculated under both of these statutory exceptions.”
- Attorney General Phil Weiser calls for a statewide pause on eviction proceedings during the COVID-19 state of emergency
March 22, 2020 — “So far, courts in Denver, Mesa County, Weld County, and Boulder County, among others, have taken this important step. I urge all Colorado courts to join in recognizing the urgent need to pause all eviction orders during this emergency. Nobody should be without their home as we all grapple with this crisis.”
- State law enforcement and public health officials urge Coloradans to follow state public health order during coronavirus emergency
March 20, 2020 — Officials from the Attorney General’s Office, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and the Colorado Department of Public Safety are urging Colorado residents to exercise civic and personal responsibility and voluntarily comply with the public health order. Leaders from these state agencies, however, said they will use their authority under state law to enforce the order when necessary and appropriate.
- Attorney General Phil Weiser urges student loan servicers and other creditors to exercise restraint and hold off debt collection efforts
March 18, 2020 — “Today, alongside House Majority Leader Alec Garnett and Rep. Leslie Herod, I urge student loan servicers, creditors, and debt collectors to refrain from mandatory debt collection efforts from those who are unable to pay because of their financial circumstance.”
- Attorney General Phil Weiser urges businesses to refund or credit cancellations due to coronavirus
March 16, 2020 — “To do their part, businesses can act responsibly by providing refunds or credits to consumers who will not be able to use their services, whether hotel reservations, airline travel, or other areas where accommodations can be made. I commend the many businesses that have already taken the lead by honoring the need to curtail travel and large events. For those who have yet to do so, I would strongly encourage them to act quickly.
- Attorney General Phil Weiser warns Coloradans to be on the lookout for Coronavirus scams
March 12, 2020 — “Scammers take advantage of natural disasters and emergencies,” said Weiser. “By learning how to avoid scams related to Coronavirus, we can work together to ensure no one in our state is taken in by these malicious attempts to defraud Colorado consumers during this public health emergency.”
- Colorado's COVID-19 website—Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Frequently Asked Questions: Enforcement of Public Health Orders—Colorado Department of Law
- What You Should Know About COVID-19—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Colorado COVID-19 Case Summary—Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay (“Colorado HELP”) Rules—Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
- Reducing Fear and Taking Care of Yourself—Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Economic impact payments—IRS
- Aumentan las Estafas Relacionadas con el Coronavirus—AARP
- El procurador general, Phil Weiser publica las denuncias principales relacionadas con el coronavirus
- El procurador general, Phil Weiser advierte sobre los estafadores de cheques de alivio económico por el coronavirus
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