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Wisconsin residents reminded to take precautions against COVID-19 scams and price gouging

Attorney General Josh Kaul urged Wisconsin residents on March 16 to be on the lookout for potential scams or instances of price gouging stemming from the outbreak of COVID-19.

Wisconsin’s laws prohibiting price gouging are now in effect after Governor Evers issued Executive Order #72 on March 12. These laws generally prohibit any wholesaler or retailer from selling consumer goods or services at prices that are more than 15% higher than pre-emergency prices.

“As we take extraordinary steps to respond to the coronavirus, Wisconsinites should be cautious of those who may be trying to take advantage of this public health emergency,” warned Attorney General Kaul. “I encourage everyone to report potential scams and price gouging and to take precautions, such as relying on verified and trusted sources of information, to guard against fraud.”

Attorney General Kaul encouraged people to take the following precautions to protect agains scams:

Beware of phishing emails, phone calls, and texts. The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) has heard of emails from scammers claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). If you want to ensure you are receiving valid information from a government official, insurance adjustor, or healthcare representative, go directly to the source instead of responding to an unsolicited communication. Do not provide personal information such as your social security number or date of birth to an unsolicited caller.

Beware of any claim of a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19. According to the FDA, there are currently no approved vaccines, drugs, or other products available to treat or cure the virus. Instead of listening to unverified claims, residents should follow the guidance of their healthcare providers, the Wisconsin Department of Health, the CDC, or the WHO.
Report possible scams to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

Exercise caution when donating to a charity. Under Wisconsin law, fundraisers and charitable organizations are required to register with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). AG Kaul encourages residents to do their own research and verify that a charity is legitimate when donating. Fraudulent charities may use high-pressure sales tactics.

Anyone who suspects being contacted by a fraudulent charity, feels targeted for a possible scam, suspects price gouging, or has related concerns should contact DATCP through their toll-free hotline at (800) 422-7128 or online at datcp.wi.gov.

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Lee Matz

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