Attorney General Ford Cautions Nevadans to Be Aware of Potential Debt Relief Scams, COVID-19 Fraudulent Treatments, Vaccines

Attorney General Ford Cautions Nevadans to Be Aware of Potential Debt Relief Scams, COVID-19 Fraudulent Treatments, Vaccines

Carson City, NV – Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford warns Nevadans who received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program to be aware of businesses soliciting services that may promise more than they can deliver when it comes to loan forgiveness. Additionally, as COVID-19 vaccines begin to be distributed throughout the country, AG Ford asks Nevadans to stay alert to avoid fraudulent cures, treatments and vaccines.

Paycheck Protection Program

While many small businesses qualify for forgiveness by the U.S. Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, loan recipients may be contacted by debt relief service companies and others offering to negotiate with the government and other creditors to settle or reduce business owners’ repayment obligations. Some of these businesses may be legitimate, but others are interested only in taking your money while providing you no relief.

“Illegitimate debt relief companies take advantage of small business owners who are struggling to make payroll, or pay a lease or mortgage on top of mountains of bills,” said AG Ford. “Seek assistance from reputable organizations or businesses to deal with debt or negotiate on your own.”

Scam debt relief companies promise consumers to pay, settle, or eliminate their debts for an up-front fee. However, over time, these companies do not pay consumers’ accounts, leaving consumers in default, with damaged credit scores and potentially facing lawsuits from creditors.

If you need assistance with your debt, look for a legitimate resource. You can speak to your creditors directly to negotiate a modified payment plan or seek credit counseling. Ask those you trust for a referral for services, and do your research on any service you are considering using.

If you decide to work with a for-profit debt relief service, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Consumer Protection offers the following tips to help you decide:

Be alert if a company asks you to pay fees up front before it settles your debt or places you in a debt management plan. A seller or telemarketer who guarantees or represents a high likelihood of you getting a loan or some other extension of credit may not ask for — or accept — payment until you get the loan or the service has been fully performed;

Be on guard if the company promises to stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits. No one can guarantee to make your unsecured debt go away, or guarantee that your unsecured debts can be paid off for pennies on the dollar;

Do not provide your financial information, such as credit card account numbers and balances, before you have had a chance to contract with the company and have done your homework on its legitimacy. Similarly, do not provide such information to anyone over the phone or email if you are not aware of the source—even if they are claiming to be from a government agency such as the U.S. Small Business Administration;

Avoid organizations that try to enroll you in a debt relief program or in a debt management plan without reviewing your financial situation or teaching you about money management; and

Remember that anything that these companies offer to do for a fee, you can do yourself, for free. Only you can make the decision about whether a legitimate debt relief company is right for your situation.

If you have encountered a debt relief company that you believe is legitimate, please file a complaint with our office or with the Federal Trade Commission.

COVID-19 Cures and Vaccine Distribution

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved emergency use for various COVID-19 vaccines. While the federal and local governments are working together to make these vaccines available to various members of the public, AG Ford cautions Nevadans to be aware of fraudulent products and misinformation related to the vaccine, cures, treatments, or prevention of COVID-19.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Interpol have issued warnings about fake vaccine distribution scams in which scammers are using email and messaging apps promising to deliver shots within days for a fee. Some of the vaccines are also being offered on the dark web.

Fraudulent products can come in the form of dietary supplements, foods, teas, essential oils, or other products claiming to be tests, drugs, medical devices, or vaccines. Consumers should also be on alert for black market or fake vaccines.

The Nevada Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Consumer Protection offers the following tips to identify misleading health claims:

Receive your vaccination at a certified vaccination center or by a certified healthcare provider. No legitimate vaccine is offered online;

Be suspicious, if a product claims to treat a wide range of diseases;

Evaluate scientific evidence provided and do not be swayed by personal testimonials that are not backed up by research or scientific analysis. Stick to credible sources for information rather than unknown journals, websites, or social media platforms;

Be on alert of any product advertised as a “quick fix.” Many diseases and conditions take time to treat;

Consider the source of information. The FDA takes time to evaluate the efficacy of various products. You will generally hear about COVID-19 and other health-related treatments for several months before it becomes widely available to the public; and

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For now, vaccines will be administered in conjunction with local health districts, hospitals and pharmacies. If you have a question about a treatment or test you found online, your health care provider or doctor is the best source of information. Speak to your pharmacist about if you have questions about a medication.

If you have any questions about the safety or efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, please speak with your healthcare provider and consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

If you feel you have encountered a fraudulent COVID-19 cure, treatment, or vaccine, please file a complaint with our office.