How Do I Report False Advertising – On March 4, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. In order to protect California consumers during this time, Attorney General Rob Bonta has made available the following tips and resources.
Emergency situations like the current COVID-19 pandemic create opportunities for scammers to take advantage of vulnerable populations. The Attorney General urges consumers to be aware of scams, including common ones:
How Do I Report False Advertising
Fake COVID-19 Tests and Test Sites: When the demand for COVID-19 testing is high, don’t fall for a fake test or fake test site. To find an in-person testing site authorized to perform COVID-19 testing, use the test site finder tool provided by the California Department of Public Health or the finder tool provided by your county’s local department of public health. You can also check with local medical groups to see if they offer testing services within their facility. When buying COVID-19 home tests, buy only from reputable sellers. To ensure that a seller is legit, look at online reviews of the seller and do an online search for the seller’s name plus the words “scam”, “complaint” or “fraud”. Also, if you’re buying a test for home use, you can look at the Food & Drug Administration’s lists of approved antigen tests and molecular diagnostic tests. When you buy a home test online, protect your purchase by paying with your credit card. If you are charged for an item you did not receive, either because the item was not delivered or because what you received is not as advertised, please contact your credit card company and dispute the charge. Anyone who has been the victim of a fake test or fake test site should immediately file a complaint at https:///report.
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Coronavirus vaccine scams: COVID-19 vaccines are being made available to the public for free. Because vaccines are freely available, there is no legitimate way to pay to get a vaccine sooner. Don’t believe anyone who asks for payment in exchange for the vaccine or an early appointment date. Don’t share your Social Security number, credit card number, bank account number, or immigration status to get the COVID-19 vaccine. No one should be prevented from receiving a vaccine for refusing to provide that information. Once vaccinated, do not share information on your vaccination card. To learn more about vaccines, your eligibility to receive vaccines, or how to make an appointment to receive a vaccine, visit https://covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/.
Coronavirus “cures” and snake oil sales: Consumers should also be wary of unknown persons attempting to sell products or services, online or over the phone, that claim to cure or cure COVID-19. There are currently no drugs that cure COVID-19 and you should consult with medical professionals regarding any treatment. Be sure to follow reputable sources for updates. Anyone who has been a victim of a snake oil scam or otherwise has information about products that are falsely advertised as coronavirus treatments, tests, or cures should file a complaint immediately at https:///report.
Illegal telemarketers using the coronavirus as part of their scams: Hang up telemarketers or robocallers who reference the coronavirus to perpetrate scams to steal money or personal information. Do not engage with telemarketers offering COVID-19 treatment or cures, work-from-home opportunities, COVID-19 test waitlisting, or other similar scams. Many long-standing scams are now being adapted to exploit fears about the coronavirus, such as robo-calls related to cleaning air ducts or health insurance. Fraudsters often make these claims over text messages as well; do not click on these links or provide any personal information to these scammers.
Unsolicited emails referencing the coronavirus: As with telemarketing, you should be extremely wary of any unsolicited emails that provide information about the coronavirus, even those claiming to be from reputable organizations. These are likely to be scams or “phishing” attempts to get you to provide personal information or to infect your device with software viruses. If you accidentally open an email, please delete the email and do not click any links or otherwise interact with the sender.
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Government Payment Scams: In March 2021, the federal government passed legislation providing for a third “stimulus” payment. For most eligible taxpayers, you don’t need to do anything to get paid. Most people will get $1,400 per adult and $1,400 per child, though there are phase-outs at higher income levels. For the most part, stimulus payments will automatically go into their bank account via direct deposit. Others may receive payment by paper check or debit card. You can see pictures of both the debit card and the mailer on the US Treasury Department website. You can also check the status of your stimulus payment (also known as an “economic impact” payment) at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.
Don’t be fooled by scammers. Remember that no one from the government will ask for your personal information by phone, email or SMS. Do not provide any of the following: social security number, credit card number, bank account number or other personal information. Anyone asking for such information is a scammer. Also, don’t be fooled by scammers who claim that you have been overpaid and need to pay them back in cash, gift card or any other form of payment.
Most people received their first stimulus payment in 2020 and their second stimulus payment in late 2020 or early 2021. If you haven’t received one of these stimulus payments and think you qualify, the IRS states that you can claim missing payments when you file taxes. You can check the IRS website for updates on stimulus payments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in bogus charities seeking to capitalize on people’s desire to help. Attorney General Bonta reminds Californians to do their research before making charitable donations to any non-profit organization.
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He checks the organization’s registration status: Charities operating in California and telemarketers soliciting donations in California are required to register with the Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts Registry. They are also required to submit annual financial reports. He confirms that the charity is registered and up to date with its financial statements by searching the Attorney General’s Register of Charities at www./charities. You can also check a charity’s tax exempt status by searching the IRS website, and you can see if the charity’s tax exempt status has been revoked by the California Franchise Tax Board.
Give to organizations you trust: Do your research before giving. Review the charity’s purpose and financial records, available in the Attorney General’s Register of Charitable Funds, and learn how it spends donations. How much is spent directly on the charitable cause? How much goes to employee overheads and salaries? Look for charities in your community and support those that have a positive impact.
Don’t get pressured by telemarketers and ask questions before donating: If you get a call from a telemarketer, ask for the name of the fundraising organization, if it’s registered with the Attorney General’s Office, the name of the charity benefiting of the solicitation, how much of your donation will go to the charity and how much to the telemarketer and the charity’s direct telephone number. If the telemarketer tells you the donation is to your animal shelter, hospital, school, police department, fire department, or other local public safety agency, check directly with the beneficiary organization to confirm that they have authorized the solicitation and that they will actually benefit from your donation. Don’t fall into pressure tactics or threats. Remember that you have the right to refuse the donation appeal and if you feel pressured or threatened, hang up.
Beware of “similar” websites: These fraudulent websites may appear to be the websites of organizations you trust, but will have a slightly different web address (URL). Similar looking URLs are sometimes purchased to attract potential donors. These sites may request personal information or install harmful material on your device.
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Beware of similar-sounding names and other deceptive tactics: Some organizations use names that closely resemble those of well-established charities to mislead donors. Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a promise you never made. Check your records. Remember: Your current registration status with the Attorney General’s Office does not mean that the Attorney General approves or has approved the organization’s activities.
Be wary of social networking and crowdfunding websites: If you’re planning to donate through a social networking solicitation or through a crowdsourcing website, like GoFundMe, find out what percentage will go to the charity, whether you’ll be charged a fee, or if a percentage of your donation will be paid to the platform’s website.
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