The amount of information around COVID-19 is changing quickly, and the amount of new information can be confusing and scary. This is how scammers take advantage. Using robocalls, text messages and social media, snake oil salesmen peddle hoax cures and free home testing kits. Predatory lenders pursue seniors with offers of medicare and social security fraudulent one-stop solutions that are simply consumer frauds and opportunities for identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission offers tips and precautions to help avoid scams and determine the veracity of official offers. Should you receive any robocalls, just simply hang up. Ignore offers for vaccination and test kits but seek out official information from the LA City and LA County Public Health websites. Watch out for phishing emails and text messages. If you find interest in the information, please do not click the links or offer any personal information. Instead, go online and do some background research and don’t let anyone rush you into making a decision (and that includes making donations). In addition, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and District Attorney Jackie Lacey are warning about financial scams and how to file a complaint.
Beware of Price Gouging
Under the law, for 30 days following the emergency declaration, it is unlawful for any consumer good, food or service to be sold, or offered for sale, at a price higher than 10% more than it was sold, or offered for sale, prior to the emergency declaration. This includes medical supplies and any items purchased online and delivered to Los Angeles. Besides ripping off consumers, price gouging has another negative consequence. Even if consumers don’t make the purchase, just seeing such inflated prices can raise concerns and fuel general panic about a scarcity of items tied to this emergency.
Consumer scams may also include:
Websites selling fake tests, unscientific or ‘snake oil’ cures, and safety gear.
Emails, texts and social media posts from phishers posing as the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or the Department of Health and Human Services who spread false information about a cure in an attempt to get a credit card number or personal information. Hackers and phishing scams entice users to click on links that can infect computers with malware or gain access to personal information.
Fake charity requests that ask for help for those impacted by Coronavirus/ COVID-19 may appeal to you for cash or gift card donations with an immediate sense of urgency.
Fraudulent investment predators offering get rich quick money-making opportunities in new products or publicly-traded companies promising “miracle” or “break-through” treatments and cures. Predatory brokers and so-called entrepreneurs use time pressure to entice investors that stock values will dramatically increase if consumers “get in now” before it is too late.
For more information about Coronavirus/COVID-19 related scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website: www.ftc.gov/coronavirus
Los Angeles price gouging and consumer scam complaints can be filed with the Office of the City Attorney – either online or by calling 213-978-8070.
Extra Trash Collection Service
The City has introduced extra trash collection services under the Safer At Home emergency order. On regularly scheduled collection days, residents can go outside to meet the Sanitation truck and wait for the sanitation worker to pick up the collection; then they can refill their black and blue bins if they have more trash, and the worker — who will remain in the truck — will take those away too. The free service will be in place until the stay-at-home order is lifted.
Questions? Call Los Angeles Sanitation Dept. 24-hour customer call center at 800-773-2489.
Will I Receive An Economic Impact Payment?
As part of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Federal Economic Impact Bill, some Americans this week are beginning to receive their stimulus checks, up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under 17 years old. The payment amounts are based on your adjusted gross income, as calculated in your most recent tax return, and the IRS is paying most checks via direct deposit — provided your information is already on file.
The IRS has also released an online portal where you can track the status of your payment and sign up for a direct deposit. For more information and frequently asked questions, please visit: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center
COVID-19 Test Available
Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced an expansion of same- and next-day testing to all residents of L.A. County who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Testing is now available at 26 testing sites across the city and county.
You can sign up for an appointment at: http://coronavirus.lacity.org/Testing
Census Submission Deadline Extended
The Census Bureau has announced a schedule adjustment due to COVID-19. The new deadline to respond is October 31, 2020. However, you can submit your response online anytime at https://my2020census.gov/, by mail with your invitation, or by phone at 844-330-2020.
Here to Serve
My office, like all City of Los Angeles offices, is following recommended protocols such as social distancing and working remotely to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That said, my staff and I are always readily available to help with your questions, concerns, and needs during this difficult period. We can be reached by phone at 213-473-7005, 323-866-1828 (West LA), or 818-971-3088 (Encino) and through email email@example.com. Since we are experiencing a higher-than-normal volume of calls, feel free to email the staff member you wish to contact directly. The accompanying link contains those e-mail addresses.
I know these are really confusing times and that new information is changing quickly, so please continue to check and verify official information through these credible resources:
Councilmember Paul Koretz, Fifth District