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ABC57 Investigates: Scammers putting health, finances at risk

ABC57 Investigates: Scammers putting health, finances at risk

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LANSING, Mich. --- COVID-19 cons are popping up left and right as scammers use sneaky techniques to prey on you and your family. They’re not only putting your bank account at risk, but your health, too.

Experts say scammers strike at your most vulnerable time and right now for thousands across Michiana, this is the most vulnerable we will be.

Much like coronavirus, schemers do not discriminate.

“The last thing you want is for people to think that they are actually keeping their families safe and they’re not,” Dana Nessel said, Michigan Attorney General.

Reports of scams in the state of Michigan are on the rise as criminals use the con game to prey on everyday people.

“Just because you get a number into your phone on your caller ID, and it appears to come from a legitimate source,” Nessel said.

Does not mean it is trustworthy.

“Especially if it’s not somebody that you’ve already talked to and communicated with and is reaching out to you seemingly out of nowhere, that’s important too,” Nessel explained.

Whether it is by email, text message, a letter in the mail or a phone call—these crooks are wasting no time hitting you and your family where it hurts.

“Happens all the time,” Nessel said.

The Michigan Attorney General’s office has seen consumer complaints skyrocket over the past two months. Especially with hundreds, even thousands of dollars in stimulus checks or unemployment money hitting thousands of bank accounts every day.

“So we ask people to be very careful,” Nessel said. “And again, if somebody reaches out to you and says we need more information, do not provide it.”

That is the same scenario with your social security number, bank account number, passwords or anything that is personal to you.

The other problem the Michigan Attorney General has noticed is issues with online retailers.

“A lot of times you’ll go ahead, you’ll purchase a product and you’ll never get that product at all,” Nessel said.

That is what happened to at least one Michigander.

A report obtained by ABC57’s Brenda Koopsen said the victim tried to order essential products, such as hand sanitizer and face masks off of a website called ‘OkHomeOnline’, but never received any products.

PPE also goes hand in hand with these essential products; people are eager to get their hands on gear that is going to protect them during the pandemic.

Instead, what they are actually purchasing is fake medical products, such as counterfeit N-95 masks, take-home COVID-19 test kits or vaccines.

When you order these products, pay attention to who you are ordering from. If the product is fake, the business will likely be illegitimate.

“It will be not really a legitimate business and it’ll be a business that I guarantee you’ve never heard of before,” Nessel explained.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said times are hard, but you have to stay smart.

“It is the easiest to take advantage of a person when they are at their most insecure and in a fearful place and all of us are right now,” Nessel said.

Attorney General Nessel said the last thing we want is for people to purchase a product that gives them a false sense of security.

“We don’t want people getting sick and potentially dying because they think that they’re safe and they’re not,” Nessel said.

This could be the case with people purchasing products that pretend to be vaccines or a cure to COVID-19.

“I mean, if those products existed, trust me—you wouldn’t just be randomly finding it somewhere on Amazon,” Nessel said. “I hope that those things will exist soon. I mean I can’t wait for the time that we actually have a vaccine or cure for COVID-19. Unfortunately, at this point we don’t and anybody who tells you otherwise is selling you a bill of goods and it’s a very dangerous situation to be in.”

Therefore, it is best to be on the lookout.

“You have to do your homework and do your due diligence to see if that’s really true or not,” Nessel suggested.

People can take steps to protect themselves by checking the URL to see if it is legitimate, looking at reviews or noticing a lack of them and verifying the seller’s physical location and phone number.

“Be careful and make sure you look into that before you actually enter your credit card or make any advanced movements towards paying for any products,” Nessel suggested. “All those scam artists—they are out there and people are getting conned left and right.”

Many states across the country are also seeing fake drive-thru coronavirus testing sites. Fortunately, there have been no reports of those sites finding their way to Michigan, but Attorney General Nessel said if they do, they will put out an alert immediately.

In the meantime, act diligently and take steps to protect yourself.

If you would like to report a case of fraud or are interested in more information, click here.

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