COVID-19 CONSUMER RESOURCESPosted on Mar 12, 2020 in Main
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs is closely monitoring the emergency situation involving novel coronavirus or COVID-19, and offers information on consumer rights and tips to protect yourself against potential scams.
CONSUMER SCAM ALERT
Government agencies caution consumers to beware of ongoing:
Consumers should be vigilant as scammers attempt to take advantage of the public’s fear of the health situation by setting up charity scam websites, offering bogus medical treatment claiming to cure or prevent COVID-19, and disseminating misinformation about the disease through social media, text messages, and emails.
Verify information through trusted governmental websites such as www.ftc.gov, www.cdc.gov, health.hawaii.gov, www.who.int, etc. Do not click on links from sources you do not know as it may lead to computer viruses or phishing attempts. Do not rush into making donations and do your due diligence to verify the charity’s legitimacy.
Additionally, we anticipate a surge in fraudulent investment schemes and urge investors to protect themselves and their loved ones from being financially victimized during this global public health crisis. See the Investor Alert from the Office of the Securities Commissioner.
Price gouging refers to sellers trying to take unfair advantage of consumers during an emergency or disaster by greatly increasing prices for essential consumer goods and services.
Even though the Office of Consumer Protection cannot represent individuals, it may, on behalf of the public, investigate or prosecute someone who has engaged in price gouging. Anyone who believes that they have been the victim of price gouging, or who has information regarding potential price gouging, is encouraged to immediately file a complaint with the OCP by filling out an online complaint form or by calling (808) 587-4272.
Governor David Ige’s recent emergency proclamations concerning the coronavirus have invoked special legal requirements applicable to Landlords and Tenants in Hawaii.
The Office of Consumer Protection is providing a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) for homeowners and renters pertaining to how these provisions impact their legal relationship. This FAQ along with more information is available in Hawai‘i Landlord-Tenant Information.
FINANCIAL AND MORTGAGE RELIEF OPTIONS
If you’re among those financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, you might be concerned about how to pay your mortgage or rent. To ensure homeowners and renters have the most up to date and accurate housing assistance information during the COVID-19 national emergency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the new Mortgage and Housing Assistance website.
A range of resources and guidance regarding financial matters such as mortgage forbearance, student loans, and financial scam awareness is available from the Conference of State Bank Supervisors at https://www.csbs.org/covid-19-consumer-resources.
FREE CREDIT REPORTS
Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are now offering free credit reports to all Americans on a weekly basis for the next year so you can protect your financial health during hardships from the coronavirus. Please see our page discussing the offer at https://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/free-credit-report-offer/.
When making travel plans, consumers should carefully review the terms and conditions of their reservation. Booking directly with the airline or hotel will usually result in receiving better cancellation policies than online travel websites. If a consumer finds that they need to postpone or cancel their trip they should escalate their request if the initial customer service representative does not provide them with the result that they are seeking. In this instance, they should demand to speak to a supervisor who may have more discretion or greater authority to provide them with relief. In view of current health emergency, many companies are being much more accommodating in addressing changes to consumer travel plans.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION (FCC) WARNINGS
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched a Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips webpage at https://www.fcc.gov/covid-scams to alert consumers to the proliferation of scam phone calls and texts related to COVID-19. The webpage includes sample audio from actual scams, including:
- Free home testing kits
- Scams targeting diabetics who use insulin
- Coronavirus HVAC cleaning
The webpage will be refreshed as the FCC becomes aware of new scams. You can also file a complaint about such scams at https://www.fcc.gov/complaints.
BUSINESS AND HEALTH INSURANCE QUESTIONS
The Hawaii Insurance Division created a page to help address common questions arising from the current public health crisis situation, such as state law requiring commercial health insurance plans to cover telehealth services. Business insurance coverage and health insurance questions are broken down separately. Please access the information at https://cca.hawaii.gov/ins/covid19/.
HAWAII ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE RESOURCES
Additional information and resources for consumers are also available on the Attorney General’s website at http://ag.hawaii.gov/covid-19-resources/.