RI Attorney General warns of price gouging and other scams during coronavirus outbreak

* UPDATE: PROVIDENCE, R.I (WLNE) – In a press conference on Thursday, March 19th, Governor Raimondo further emphasized that price gouging is illegal and is working very closely with the Attorney General.
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PROVIDENCE, R.I (WLNE) – The Attorney General, Peter Neronha reminds Rhode Island residents to watch out for potential scams or instances of price gouging that stemmed from the outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.

“These are unique and uncertain circumstances,” said Neronha.

“The focus here as to be on public health, not profit. This office is going to make sure people have access to the goods and services they need to minimize the threat from this public health emergency. Our commitment, as always, remains to keep Rhode Islanders safe.”

According to the Attorney General’s office, many consumer questions have emerged as a result of the outbreak, from health insurance considerations to canceled ticketed events.

The Attorney general’s office wanted to assure Rhode Island residents that price gouging is illegal in the state.

This means businesses are prohibited from increasing the price of any essential commodity to an “unconscionably high price” immediately before or during a declared state of emergency.

This comes as residents in Providence have been seeing empty shelves of necessary items including hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, and paper towels.

Some residents like Victoria Lugo had a hard time finding some items on her list at the Providence Walmart.

“I didn’t find Clorox wipes I didn’t find alcohol… there’s not a lot of toilet tissue there’s not a lot of paper towels,” she said. “I ended up making my own Clorox wipes. I’m going to use these kinds of shop towels, and some disinfectant spray I bought.”

With so many developments in the past 24 hours, Lugo said that shelves were”barren.”

Lugo just wants to be prepared because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next.

“Not stockpiling just having a good, you know, at least a two week supply of things and then we’ll kind of take it from there,” she said. “Even if I am overreacting it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

On the other side of the city, it doesn’t seem to be the same case for Austria Cuello after she knocked out her shopping at PriceRite.

“Everybody saying oh they couldn’t find anything any cleaning supplies or sanitizer and all of that but they had some in there,” Cuello said.

With four kids at home, and with the news of covid-19, Cuello also wants to be prepared.

“It can be scary because all of the news you’re watching with the schools, shutdowns,” she said.

The office of The Attorney General also offers the following points when dealing with scams:

  • Don’t click on links in unsolicited e-mails. Always verify the source.
  • Be wary of emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO). These organizations will not be contacting you directly. Visit www.cdc.org or www.who.org for health-related information.
  • There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19. Any offer promising a vaccination is a scam.
  • Thoroughly check out any charity or organization seeking donations for COVID-19 related causes. Someone asking for donations – particularly in cash, prepaid credit cards, or gift cards – to help victims of COVID-19, or for “research” into finding a vaccine or cure, is likely a scammer.
  • Look out for scam “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued an investor alert. Before making any type of investment regarding stock in any company, you should contact a legitimate investment company.
  • Beware of online or unsolicited calls or emails from individuals posing as government officials, insurance adjustors or healthcare representatives. Do not provide personal information (such as social security number, date of birth, etc.) to any unsolicited callers.

Nerohna said anyone who witnesses cases of price gouging, scams, or is a victim should contact the Consumer Protection Unit at 401-274-4400.

©WLNE-ABC6 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, Regional News, Rhode Island, Your Health