SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's office is warning residents to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, there have been reports of phone scams and price gouging, with county residents the intended targets of the illegal activity.
"Unfortunately, during times of crisis, there are those who want to victimize other people," said District Attorney Dan Dow. "People who are just trying to help during this crisis, may be targeted by scammers and folks that want to defraud other individuals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have already been trying to take advantage of our community by misinformation and scare tactics."
Dow added a phone scam was reported last week that involved the purchase of gift cards.
One of the scams included the cards being used to post bail at the Sheriff's Office.
"That was not true," Dow said. "That was a scam."
He added another scam involved seniors being targeted and telling them they needed to purchase the cards to receive food delivery.
"Those are not true," said Dow. "You will never be asked to pay for our food delivery service in our county. County staff, whether it's at the DA's Office, the Sheriff's Office, or any other department, we will never ask you to pay for any kind of service that we're providing, certainly not in the form of gift cards."
Dow said scammers may try to contact potential victims in several different ways, including by phone, email, social media or texting.
"You can protect yourself by not releasing any personal information whenever you're asked to do so," said Dow. "Whether that's your bank account information, your date of birth, social security number. All of that is private and should not by shared with anyone whom you do not know who they are."
Another warning is to be aware of fake websites, emails, texts, or other posts on social media impersonating a relief agency to profit illegally.
"Although they may appear to be a legitimate agency," said Dow. "They often have misspellings in their postings, or they may have a logo posted that doesn't appear to be genuine and may be copied. While most businesses are honest and have good intentions, they are always bad actors unfortunately that want to take advantage of the fear in society," said Dow.
Dow also said to be on the lookout for price gouging.
"There's a Penal Code 396 that prohibits a business, a retailer, or even a wholesaler, any provider of services or goods from charging a price more than 10 percent higher than the amount they were charging 30 days prior to the emergency being declared by the governor," said Dow. "The goods and services covered by Penal Code Section 396 includes food, emergency supplies, medical supplies, building materials, gasoline, transportation, freight, storage services, motel accommodations and rental housing"
Dow emphasized that anyone who feels they have been a victim of price gouging or a scam, or has observed it, is urged to contact the District Attorney's Office.
The County of San Luis Obispo District Attorney’s Office can be reached at: (805) 781-5800 or by email at SLOConsumerComplaint@co.slo.ca.us.