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Attorney General Neronha warns of price gouging, other scams during COVID-19 outbreak

Attorney General Peter Neronha reminds Rhode Island residents to watch out for potential scams or instances of price gouging stemming from the outbreak of COVID-19.

"These are unique and uncertain circumstances," said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. "The focus here has 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 keeping Rhode Islanders safe."

Many consumer questions have emerged as a result of this public health emergency, from health insurance considerations to what to do about canceled ticketed events. Our Office stands ready to help consumers navigate these issues. If we cannot help you directly, we will connect you to an agency that can.

The Attorney General's Office offers the following guidance to Rhode Island consumers:

Price Gouging Is Illegal In Rhode Island

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 practice is known as price gouging and it is illegal in Rhode Island.

If you notice or suspect price gouging, or think you have been a victim, contact our Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400 or fill out an online complaint form (https://riag.wufoo.com/forms/q1851amb1bdd4d5).

Travel

Have a trip planned and think you may want to cancel? We advise that you reach out to your travel provider. Many companies have cancelled trips and are providing refunds. Others have relaxed their cancellation policies in the wake of the COVID-19 situation.

You can also reach out to our Consumer Protection Unit at 401-274-4400 to find out additional options.

Scams

Be vigilant! 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.

If you think you have been the victim of a scam, contact our Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400 or fill out an online complaint form (https://riag.wufoo.com/forms/q1851amb1bdd4d5).

Additional steps our Office is taking

We continue to monitor and stay apprised of state efforts Our consumer protection team is ready to answer inquiries via phone or email

We are prepared to investigate bad actors who are scamming consumers or price gouging

Out of an abundance of caution, we are suspending all Office public events (non-court related) throughout the month of March and will assess going forward.

For health-related questions and concerns, visit www.cdc.org or health.ri.gov/diseases/ncov2019 for local information.

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