Hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and respirator masks are hot items as the new coronavirus outbreak expands. The high demand has consumer protection officials worried that shoppers will become victims of scams and price gouging.
As of Friday, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is investigating 10 complaints of price gouging.
“Our investigators are out there in the market now spot checking pharmacies and other businesses for this type of conduct,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.
Have a consumer complaint? Call 215-201-5310
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday issued a COVID-19 disaster declaration for the commonwealth. In addition to increasing coordination between state agencies, the declaration also prohibits vendors from drastically increasing prices for common goods and services.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office said companies are barred from selling goods exceeding 20% of the average price to which those goods or services were sold for in the 7 days preceding the date of declaration.
If you believe you spotted price gouging in Pennsylvania you can report it to the attorney general’s office by emailing email@example.com.
In Delaware, the state Department of Justice is asking you to beware of con artists and crimes of opportunity. It warns against possible fake consumer products, misleading emails, text messages or social media posts.
You could become a victim in a matter of seconds.
According to Internet security expert Mark Ostrowski, scammers already targeted people in Japan.
“What we saw was a specific malware phishing campaign,” said Ostrowski. He tells NBC10 Responds scammers struck while a cruise ship with quarantined coronavirus patients docked off the coast. Nearby residents received an email, according to Ostrowski, that appeared to come from the Japanese government.
“That attachment was supposed to be information about the outbreak and tracking and things to do. But that attachment was actually malicious and it contained malware,” said Ostrowski. He suspects it’s only a matter of time until we see something like this in the United States. “As we see other areas of populations or countries or, you know, segments of populations get infected, that those areas will become the targets.”
If you experience a consumer issue, contact NBC10 Responds by filling out our consumer complaint form, or call us at 215-201-5310.