CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Officials are issuing an urgent warning about scams related to the coronavirus. 19 News is teaming up with the Cuyahoga County Scam squad to make sure you don’t fall victim.
In an exclusive interview, Attorney General Dave Yost told us what to look out for.
“Scam artists are going to try to take advantage of this they always try to work off what’s happening in current events,” he said.
As concerned consumers focus on the unknowns of the coronavirus. Yost said some businesses are trying to capitalize on an opportunity.
He said people should be wary of any product that claims to “cure” or “prevent” the illness. Yost said there is no such product.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug administration both started cracking down on businesses they said were advertising products that “protect against the coronavirus."
The agencies sent letters to seven companies they say were illegally marketing essential oils, vitamins and cleaning products. We checked, and it does appear each company has taken down their claims or at least added disclaimers to their websites.
Now, officials are urging the public to be wary of ads that haven’t been caught yet.
“The best way to be safe is to do the things everyone is telling you to do,” Yost said. “Cover your cough, wash your hands, and stay away from large crowds.”
But right now, there’s something even more pressing holding Yost’s attention -- panic buying.
“If I had a message for folks at home today, it would be there’s going to be enough. There’s no scarcities here, calm down," Yost said.
Yost said he can’t implement purchasing limits on things stores can’t seem to keep stocked, like hand sanitizer or toilet paper.
“The government can’t tell you what to do and not to do. I’m pleading with people, exercise some sense,” he said.
And the governor is asking businesses to do the same. He mentioned in his press conference Thursday that he’s asked the attorney general to handle any reports of price gauging.
“The Attorney General is prepared to enforce.... unconscionable sales,” he said. “If people are thinking about making more than the usual profits, they need to think about that.”
“This virus isn’t going to make us go to the bathroom more,” Yost said. “It’s not like there’s not enough toilet paper being made in the world, but we can create shortages by panic buying.”
Whether it’s ridiculous prices, or a false ads, officials are trying to make sure things don’t get even more out of control.
Officials want to know if you’re seeing scams like this pop up in Northeast Ohio. You can report a scam on the Attorney General’s website.
The FDA encourages health care professionals and consumers to report adverse events or quality problems experienced with the use of COVID-19 products to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.