We trust businesses and the government to be truthful. However, the reality is that sometimes scammers pose as business or government officials in an effort to steal money. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to many scammers attempting to take advantage of consumers in West Virginia. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, our consumer protection attorneys want to discuss some of these scams.
Examples of Scams That Are on the Rise
The tax deadline in the United States was extended to July of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This, along with the distribution of stimulus checks from the government, has led to a rise in tax-related scams.
Unfortunately, the West Virginia State Tax Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have said that many consumers throughout the state are receiving phone calls from people claiming to work for various tax agencies requesting personal financial information in order for a person to receive a quicker refund or a stimulus check. These scammers are also using emails, social media, and text messages to request money or personal information. You can expect this behavior to increase if another stimulus check is approved by Congress.
Another scam that is being perpetrated in West Virginia involves scammers impersonating local health department officials under the guise of conducting “contact tracing” of the coronavirus. They will often tell people that they have been exposed to COVID-19 and that they need to provide personal information in order to assist with the contact tracing process.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed
According to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, “Scammers never cease to find new ways to steal from consumers. Consumers must remain ever vigilant and protect their personal, identifiable information. Never click on an unfamiliar link and never share information without verifying who is on the other end.”
Some of the most important things that you need to remember moving forward include the following:
- Never click any links in emails or text messages, as this could lead to dangerous spyware or malware being installed on your device.
- Do not provide your Social Security number or other sensitive information over the phone without verifying the legitimacy of the recipient.
- Be wary of anybody claiming to work for the government that is asking you to send cash, wire money, or provide gift cards for payment.
- If you have any questions about a scam, call the following numbers or visit the following website: Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at (304) 267-0239 or visit the office online at wv.gov.
When to Contact a Charleston Consumer Protection Attorney
If you suspect that you or somebody you care about have been the targets of a COVID-19 scam, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Tiano O’Dell, PLLC, we have extensive experience handling consumer rights cases in West Virginia, and we are ready to get to work on your behalf. We will conduct a full investigation into your case and work diligently to hold the perpetrators of the scam accountable so you can get your money back. When you need a COVID-19 consumer protection attorney, you can contact us for a free consultation online or by calling (304) 720-6700.