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A New Crop of Scams Grows with COVID-19 Pandemic

The Arizona PIRG Education Fund advises never to give out financial information by phone or online, especially if you don't know who you're talking with. (daisy/Adobe Stock)
The Arizona PIRG Education Fund advises never to give out financial information by phone or online, especially if you don't know who you're talking with. (daisy/Adobe Stock)
April 8, 2020

PHOENIX -- It may seem like there's always a new scam making the rounds to try to take Arizonans' hard-earned money or steal their identity, and in this coronavirus pandemic, there are more schemes than ever to watch out for.

With so much upheaval in the economy, con artists are looking to take advantage of people when they're at their most vulnerable. Grace Brombach, a consumer associate with the Arizona Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, said while some people may genuinely want to help folks in a bad situation, it pays to be a little skeptical.

"There are some companies and individual businesses, property owners, who are taking action to lessen the burden on consumers," she said, "but there are scammers trying to prey on this fear through financial scams, fake COVID-19 testing and price gouging on critical supplies that people need."

Brombach advised to be particularly suspicious of anyone who promises they can get your government stimulus check early. It's likely they're just trying to steal your bank account number. She said people should jealously guard their identity and financial information.

"At the end of the day," she said, "it's important to know basically not to give out your financial information, always erring on the side of caution."

Many people have lost their jobs or businesses, seemingly overnight. But Brombach said it's always better to talk with people to whom you owe money, rather than trying to avoid them, which often can make things worse.

"It's important that a consumer know how to negotiate and advocate for themselves to delay these payments," she said, "but also that they're doing it in the most effective way possible, so that they're not pushing off payments that maybe are going to accrue more and more debt down the line."

She said the Arizona PIRG Education Fund has a great deal of information to help people avoid price gouging, fake products, miracle cures and other scams they may encounter during the pandemic. It's online at ArizonaPIRGedfund.org.

Disclosure: Arizona PIRG Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Energy Policy, Urban Planning/Transportation. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ