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Where do I report price gouging, unlawful hoarding, charity scams, procurement fraud, scam calls, and other COVID-19 related scams?

Last Updated: 04/23/2020

Governor Murphy announced the formation of the New Jersey COVID-19 Fraud Task Force, a joint federal-state effort to investigate and prosecute unlawful and misleading activities related to COVID-19.

To report any instance of price gouging, hoarding of medical supplies, charity scams, procurement fraud, scam calls, or any other related unlawful activity, please file a complaint online with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs or call 973-504-6240. Consumers should leave their name, contact information, nature of the complaint and the name and address of the business.

Price Gouging

New Jersey's law against price gouging is now in effect. This law prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, or for 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency.

Excessive price increases are defined as price increases more than 10 percent higher than the price at which merchandise was sold during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency. See New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act for more information.

Hoarding

The New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a Notice pursuant to President Trump's Executive Order 13910 and the Defense Production Act, which designated health and medical resources necessary to respond to the spread of COVID-19 that are scarce or the supply of which would be threatened by excessive accumulation. These designated materials are subject to the hoarding prevention measures authorized under the Executive Order and the Act. Individuals or businesses that violate the Act will be subject to prosecution.

The State is also cracking down on any physician or pharmacist hoarding certain prescription drugs, or inappropriately prescribing them to friends. Administrative Order 2020-01 imposes state wide restrictions on prescribing and dispensing of drugs. This is to protect the supply of certain drugs being investigated for their potential in treating COVID-19. Violations can be reported to the State Board of Medical Examiners.

Common COVID-Related Scams

  • Treatment scams: Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
  • Supply scams: Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
  • Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.
  • Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
  • Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
  • App scams: Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users' devices and personal information.
  • Investment scams: Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as "research reports," make predictions of a specific "target price," and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.

For more information on how to avoid these and similar scams, please refer toadditional guidance from the New Jersey COVID-19 Fraud Task Force.

Please note that violations of Executive Order No. 107, as described below, should still be reported at https://covid19.nj.gov/violation.

Executive Order 107 requires:

  • non-essential retail businesses to close
  • all businesses or non-profits in the State, whether closed or open to the public, must accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangements
  • the cancellation of all gatherings of individuals, such as parties, celebrations, or other social events.

If you are aware of a potential violation of Executive Order 107, you can report it at: https://covid19.nj.gov/violation.

Please read this article for more information on Executive Order 107

Additionally, through a joint effort of New Jersey law enforcement and various emergency preparedness entities, a COVID-19 Rumor Control and Disinformation page has been created for the general public. For more information, visit the Rumor Control and Disinformation Page.

Source: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud;
https://www.njhomelandsecurity.gov/covid19;
https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200330a.shtml; https://njconsumeraffairs.state.nj.us/file-a-complaint/?stepid=b41bbbe8-6869-ea11-80fa-005056906006&sessionid=ae6be58a-1a6d-ea11-80c8-005056ba24cd