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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING HIGHLIGHTS COVID-RELATED CONSUMER PROTECTION EFFORTS
~ Herring has worked to ensure Virginians have the tools and knowledge to protect themselves from potential COVID-related scams and price gouging ~
RICHMOND – Over the past year during the COVID-19 state of emergency, Attorney General Mark R. Herring has been vigilant in urging Virginians to be wary of any potential COVID-related scams, including federal stimulus package scams and vaccine-related scams. Attorney General Herring and his Consumer Protection Section have also received more than 500 complaints alleging possible price gouging activity and have settled one case of price gouging after urging Virginians to be on the lookout for any instances of price gouging.
"The past year has been unprecedented for so many reasons, and unfortunately, bad actors and scammers oftentimes take advantage of uncertain, scary times to try and line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Herring. "Virginians have had to navigate through so much uncertainty and fear over the past year and they should not have to worry about being preyed upon by scammers or price gougers in addition to everything else. I'm incredibly proud of the work my Consumer Protection Section and I have done to make sure that Virginians are prepared and know what to look out for so that they do not become victims of any COVID-related scams or illegal price gouging.”
Even before Governor Northam declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Herring issued a warning to Virginians about potential coronavirus related scams. In April 2020, he reminded Virginians to be wary of COVID-19-related scams including:
- Federal stimulus package related scams
- Cyber scams
- Telephone and text messaging scams
- Counterfeit product offers
- Bogus door-to-door tests and virus-related products
- Phony charity donation requests
Attorney General Herring highlighted ploys where scammers were trying to get personal information as part of a federal stimulus payment scam. He noted that there had been reports of scammers using the news that, as part of the federal stimulus package, the government will be sending one-time payments to millions of Virginians and Americans as an opportunity to try and steal personal information. He noted that these kinds of phishing scams would likely ask for things like bank account information under the guise of direct depositing money from the stimulus package into your bank account. He also reminded Virginians that the government will not ask you to pay any money up front to get a stimulus check – so, if someone asks you to pay something, it's a scam.
As the country began to move closer towards having FDA-approved vaccines for COVID-19, Attorney General Herring also began to urge Virginians to be wary of any vaccine-related scams, which could include selling medications, treatments, or vaccines that purport to prevent or cure COVID-19. A few things Attorney General Herring reminded Virginians to look out for to avoid becoming a victim of a COVID vaccine-related scam were:
- Always make sure that you consult a medical professional or a doctor in order to get the COVID-19 vaccine or treatment
- Do not buy any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment over the internet or through an online pharmacy
- Make sure that your doctor or physician is approved to administer any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment
- Ignore any unsolicited or "too good to be true” offers for vaccines, miracle cures, or treatments
- Be wary of any online ads you may see for COVID-19 vaccines or treatments on social media
- Do not respond to any unsolicited emails, text messages, or calls that are offering any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment
- Always talk with your doctor or another healthcare professional before you try any product claiming to treat, cure, or prevent COVID-19
- Head to CDC.gov for clear and concise information on COVID-19. Additionally, visit the FDA's Resources page to find out about treatments in development
Virginians who have any questions or concerns or believe they may have been the victim of a COVID-related scam should reach out to Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section:
- By phone: (800) 552-9963
- By email:
- Online Complaint Form
- Online Contact Form
When Governor Northam declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, 2020, Virginia's anti-price gouging statutes immediately went into effect to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessary goods and services during the emergency.
During the COVID-19 emergency, the Virginia Attorney General's Office has received more than 500 complaints and e-mails alleging possible price gouging activity and has sent more than 150 investigative letters to businesses. Investigation of these complaints has largely revealed that many price increases occurred further up the supply chain with manufacturers or distributors that were beyond the reach of the state's price gouging laws, and this prompted Attorney General Herring to successfully seek amendments to the state's price gouging law during the 2020 General Assembly special session.
In January of this year, Attorney General Herring secured a settlement with Arlington-based Joule Wellness Pharmacy, for alleged violations of the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act. The settlement resolved allegations that Joule Wellness Pharmacy charged unconscionable prices on rubbing alcohol, a necessary good after Governor Northam declared a state of emergency. Attorney General Herring alleged in his complaint that Joule Wellness Pharmacy charged $22 per 16-oz bottle of rubbing alcohol, when it had purchased the same product for $12.75 from its supplier, which constituted price gouging. Under the terms of the settlement, Joule Wellness Pharmacy agreed to cease any price gouging practices and also agreed to pay $2,500 in civil penalties and attorneys fees and also disgorged all profits made from the offending sales.
Additionally, in April 2020, Attorney General Herring led a national effort to address price gouging in the PPE supply chain, urging 3M as one of the largest manufacturers of PPE, particularly masks, to do more to address price gouging within its supply and distribution chains that was causing hospitals and healthcare providers to pay exorbitant prices for PPE.
Suspected violations of Virginia's Anti-Price Gouging Act should be reported to Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section for investigation, as violations are enforceable by the Office of the Attorney General through the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section for information or to file a complaint:
- By phone: (800) 552-9963
- By email:
- Price Gouging Complaint Form
- General Online Complaint Form
- Online Contact Form
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