Michigan AG warns of price gouging, phone and email scams for fake COVID-19 tests

When you’re worried, you may let your guard down -- that’s what scam artists and greedy businesses are counting. But the Michigan attorney general says her office is working to stay one step ahead of the scammers.

"What we don't want to see is businesses to see this crisis as an economic opportunity,” said Dana Nessel.

Nessel says her office is responding to complaints about stores that are gouging prices to panicked consumers. Earlier this week, she sent out cease and desist letters to some retailers who appeared to be jacking up prices on suddenly in-demand items.

"We're talking about things like facemasks, sanitizer, soap, toilet paper, diapers, you name it and if it's an essential item that people somehow correlate to this crisis, we're seeing grossly inflated prices,” she said.

Nessel is working closely with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who just this week issued an executive order -- any business charging more than a 20 percent increase on a product than it was priced just before the coronavirus pandemic is in violation of the law. But the attorney general also wants to warn you about other scams, like spoofing phone calls.

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Scammers may call you pretending to be medical personnel, who claim a relative or friend is sick and in the hospital and needs medical assistance. They may even make the call appear to look like it's coming from a legitimate source.

"If somebody calls them, who they did not reach out to and starts making these inquiries, asking for personal information, asking for financial information, do not provide that information,” Nessel said.

She also has a warning about emails.

"They’ll say, ‘click on this attachment to order your COVID-19 test.’ A lot of times what that ends up being is that attachment is really malware. It's a virus, and it gets into your device, and it gets into your device and it can steal all your information,” she said.

As for the pathogen virus, the coronavirus that's suddenly changed all of our lives -- many of us had vacations we bought and paid for that are now cancelled or postponed. What happens to our credit vouchers if those cruise lines and airlines end up going out of business?

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"We don't know yet who's going to file for bankruptcy. We don't know who's going to get bailed out. We don't know what the set of circumstances is going to be economically. I know that our state and federal partners are working on all kinds of economic reforms as we speak,” she said.

Nessel says we're in good hands, but we all need to work together. She vows to keep Michiganders safe in these quickly changing times. If you have a complaint about price gouging or corona related scams in general, contact the attorney general's office at michigan.gov/ag.