Attorney General Schmitt, Governor Parson, and Lieutenant Governor Kehoe are warning Missourians of potential COVID-19 related scams and price gouging across the state. All three offices have been monitoring these scams and will be sharing information to ensure that Missouri consumers are protected.
“Across Missouri, COVID-19 related price gouging and scams are a big concern - we’ve received over 400 price gouging complaints in the past two weeks and we're monitoring a number of different scams,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Working with Governor Parson and Lieutenant Governor Kehoe to educate Missourians on potential scams and taking action wherever possible are important duties and we will remain vigilant as we move through this crisis.”
"Price gouging and scams are not acceptable anytime, let alone during a crisis," said Governor Mike Parson. "We must continue to work together and take action to protect Missouri citizens from those looking to prey on our most vulnerable."
“The Lieutenant Governor’s office continues to work on behalf of Missouri's Seniors and Veterans, all the more so during these difficult times. I am grateful to the Attorney General’s Office for their diligent efforts doing the same,” said Lieutenant Governor Kehoe.
Attorney General Schmitt first warned consumers of price gouging in early March, and the Attorney General’s Office has since seen over 400 complaints related to COVID-19 price gouging. Missouri law prohibits individuals and businesses from substantially raising their prices for the necessities of life during an emergency. Consumers need to be aware of products that see a large increase in prices, particularly substantial price increases on hand sanitizer, medical masks, soap, over the counter medicine, and other necessities. Missouri’s hospitals and healthcare professionals should also be on the lookout for medical supply chain price gouging.
The Attorney General’s Office recently issued a cease and desist letter to a Springfield man for inflating the prices of N95 masks and sent civil investigative demands to eight third party sellers on Amazon for potential price gouging.
With the passage of the CARES Act, there may be some scammers who try to take advantage of the potential payments to American citizens. Text messages or emails purporting to be from the federal government may contain phishing links and robocalls along the same lines may also start to circulate. These scams are being monitored by federal government agencies and by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
Additionally, some of the most common scams are still circulating during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, scam Social Security Administration (SSA) and IRS calls have been reworked to include COVID-19 as a reason for urgency (example here). Remember, the IRS or SSA will never call you first. Consumers are advised to hang up the phone immediately if they receive calls that seem suspicious. Phishing scams may also circulate through email or text.
Missourians who wish to report price gouging or scams can do so through the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-392-8222 or online at ago.mo.gov.
Missourians can also reach out to the Lt. Governor’s office by calling 573.751.4727 or emailing Mike.firstname.lastname@example.org.