CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a phone interview with the CVN that his office is working diligently to identify and stop scam attempts during the COVID-19 pandemic and believes that educating the public regarding potential threats is essential.
“It’s important to get the word out to counties across West Virginia that our consumer protection division is looking for the public to report violations and instances of consumer protection laws,” he said. “In many respects this refers to price gouging and we want people to step up and report it to our office at 1-800-368-8808 or to file online at wvago.gov”
The attorney general added, “We investigate every allegation of wrongdoing,” he said. “We are working hard at fighting the scams that people are currently talking about.”
Morrisey noted a utility scam, a stimulus scam and a personal protective equipment scam (PPE) as the most reported elements of activity received by his office.
“In each of these situations, you can’t give your personal identifiable information away because people have been ripped off,” he said. “With the PPE scam, we recommend that you work only with a reputable vendor — and this applies to the stimulus scam, as well, if you are seeking small business help. Work with someone you know who is licensed and registered with the secretary of state’s office. Otherwise, you could hand someone a $500 or $1,000 check and get ripped off and we don’t want that to happen.”
Morrisey added, “In these difficult times, when we are having huge financial and consumer issues, we want people to call our office and work with us.”
Morrisey’s office reported a large spike in related incidents after the pandemic started.
“We’ve received over 850 consumer calls and that doesn’t take into the account hundreds of other concerns and questions,” he said. “A large portion of those related to price gouging. Those numbers have slowed over the last week, but it is important as we move forward because there will be a lot of consumer questions as the state reopens whether it be mortgage, consumer, landlord and tenant or debt collection matters, it is important that people know what the rules of the road are and protect themselves and it is important that every person make a plan for their own financial situation because we are headed for challenging times ahead and we want to make sure everyone is prepared.”
Morrisey said medical supplies like sanitizer along with beef, chicken and toilet paper are among the most reported items related to price gouging.
Aside from consumer protection, the attorney general said he will remain active in providing counsel to his constitutional office counterparts as well as local government officials regarding matters of executive authority, elections and the Second Amendment.