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Arizona authorities warn about scammers during pandemic

Arizona authorities warn about scammers during pandemic

Authorities in Arizona are warning residents to be aware of scammers trying to exploit people during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scammers are stepping up their game in the Tucson area, part of their statewide bid to cash in on the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said.

The FBI is warning locals and all Arizonans to beware of “bad actors” hawking deals on virtually anything linked to the virus, from free tests to discounts on personal protective gear to investments in startup medical ventures.

A common thread in these consumer frauds is that the offers are unsolicited, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jeremy Capello said Friday in an April 17 conference call with Arizona news reporters.

Capello, who is based in Phoenix, said his office is receiving reports of fraudulent activity in Tucson and Southern Arizona, though he could not immediately quantify the extent.

The phony offers may come in person, by phone or email, or from social media sites, Capello said. People who post about their personal health on social media may be at extra risk of being targeted by bogus advertisers, he added.

Among the most common scams seen in Arizona:

  •  Offers of free COVID-19 testing, a ruse to obtain insurance information then used to submit fake medical claims and pocket the cash.
  •  Purported deals on personal protective gear for buyers who agree to pay up front — only to end up empty-handed when the products never arrive.

 Counterfeit products such as home testing kits or remedies to cure the disease. There are no proven cures, the FBI said.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich issued similar warnings Friday during a townhall with Sen.Martha McSally of Tucson.

He urged the public to avoid anyone peddling “miracle cures and treatments” or anyone who claims to be a government agent asking questions about their stimulus checks.

“If anyone contacts you unsolicited you should be very careful about what their motives are,” Brnovich said in a news release.

To report a suspected COVID-19 scam, contact the FBI toll-free at 1-800-CALLFBI or file an online complaint the with state attorney general at azag.gov

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@tucson.com or 573-4138. On Twitter: @StarHigherEd

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