Minnesota attorney general warns consumers of price-gouging, COVID-19 scams

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Friday warned consumers to watch for scams relating to the new coronavirus outbreak, as well as price-gouging.

Ellison said as the number of confirmed cases rise in the state, scammers are increasingly preying on consumers by attempting to sell them bogus products or unproven treatments. The attorney general also urged Minnesotans to report any price-gouging relating to COVID-19 to his office at 651-296-3353 in the metro area or 800-657-3787 in Greater Minnesota, or online here.

"As we come together to combat COVID-19, Minnesotans need to be just as vigilant about protecting their pocketbooks from scammers as they are about keeping themselves and their communities healthy," said Ellison. "My job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives and live with dignity and respect, now more than ever. My office is on high alert to identify and use all our resources to COVID-19-related scams. We need Minnesotans’ help in doing it. I strongly urge anyone who has come across what they think is a scam or believes they’ve been a victim of one to contact my office immediately."

He added, "It’s important to speak up if you’ve been scammed. You might feel ashamed and not want to tell anyone. But if you tell us, we may be able to help you, and when you tell us, you’ll be helping others."

Coronavirus Outbreak Coverage

Some of the scams exploiting public anxieties surrounding the virus include:

  • Setting up websites to sell bogus products, fake COVID-19 vaccines, and other unproven treatments,
  • Using fake emails, texts, and social media posts to deceptively solicit "donations" for victims, and
  • Imposter scams where scammers send malicious emails impersonating government agencies such as the CDC in hopes that you will click on a link, and thereby download malicious software that will give the scammer access to your personal or financial information.

Ellison also urges people to:

  • Avoid clicking links from unknown sources
  • Get updated information about COVID-19 directly from government agencies (such as MDH and CDC)
  • Ignore offers for "miracle" health products, treatments or vaccinations
  • Do research before donating to a nonprofit or charity
  • Report suspected scams to the Attorney General’s Office

"Not many people realize that Minnesota doesn’t have a law against price gouging, as 30 other states do. I think we should," Ellison said. "I’m glad a bill to ban price-gouging has been introduced in the Minnesota House. I strongly encourage the Legislature to pass it as quickly as possible so that we can protect Minnesota consumers from these despicable practices. Although we can’t legally fight price-gouging right now, the more people tell us about it, the more we’ll be able advocate for a bill that will allow us to fight it."