NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – COVID-19 shut down the economy for a while, but it has opened up doors for alleged scammers. Complaints began almost from the moment Tennesseans learned how the virus would change their lives.
“As of about July 10th, our division of consumer affairs received a total of 492 (complaints),” said Samantha Fisher of the Tennessee Office of the Attorney General. Of those complaints, 294 were alleged price gouging incidents.
As the pandemic unfolded, executive orders from Governor Bill Lee in March gave more powers to track down price gouging offenders on a number of fronts like medical supplies and household cleaning materials.
Not only in the home, but school districts, hospitals and nursing homes are also constantly cleaning in this age of COVID-19.
It did not take long for a company to think it could pass off regular baby wipes as the popular Lysol disinfecting wipes.
“There was nothing that seem to be disinfecting about them except there was a homemade looking sticker on it that said Lysol,” said Fisher.
The Attorney General’s Office stopped the practice leading to a positive outcome after the Tennessee company was contacted.
“They offered refunds to any consumer who wanted them and they also donated remaining product to a local athletics department,” said Fisher. “There are businesses that will take advantage of the situation right now. Do a little extra research before you purchase a product especially online.”
Going with a trusted name or vendor is one recommendation. Whether it be calls, emails or texts seeking any information about your money Fisher said, “Never give out your financial information over the phone or over an email. This is scam.”
Because of the increased demand in a pandemic the price of some items may go up. One incident involved two brothers who stockpiled and sold coveted hand sanitizers near Chattanooga.
“I was buying them intending to turn a profit into selling them,” said Matt Colvin last spring. “But at the same time I was not in a situation where I trying to rip people off.”
The Colvin brothers cooperated after being confronted by the Attorney General’s Office. They ended up donating 17-thousand hand sanitizers to Tennessee non-profits and Kentucky officials.
“Sometimes that happens when we show up,” said Fisher. “It’s a happy note in what is often another downer as people try to take advantage of a pandemic.”
The website for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office has more information about potential COVID-19 scams.