Georgia Scams Alert: Woman Sells Pesticide As Coronavirus Killer; Texts Warn Of Exposure
Some Georgians over the last few weeks received a disturbing text message on their phone. It told them they came into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 and needed to be tested.
When they visited the website from the text, they were asked to enter personal information about bank accounts and passwords. The scam was one of many intended to capitalize on people's fears and anxieties during the pandemic, according to Attorney General Chris Carr's office.
Carr said his office was working with retailers to crack down on scammers and people overcharging for goods. The Georgia Consumer Protection Division said as early as mid-March they received multiple complaints about price gouging for food, toilet paper, water and hand sanitizer.
"If you've taken something that used to be 50 cents and now it’s $50, that's gonna be problematic,” Carr told GPB's Stephen Fowler last month. “You can't charge more for a particular good that has to do with public health, safety and well-being.”
If someone is found guilty of price gouging, the fine can be up to $15,000.
A Peachtree Corners resident was scammed out $350 while trying to buy facial masks online to protect herself and her family, according to the Georgia Recorder. At the time, they thought the website seemed reputable. She never received her masks or a refund.
Scammers also preyed upon Georgians' hopes for an easy cure or disinfectant.
A 34-year-old Fayetteville resident, Rong Sun, appeared in federal court last week on charges of illegally importing and selling an unregistered pesticide. Sun said it would fight against coronavirus, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release.
She said in her eBay listing the product, Toamit Virus Shut Out, kills viruses and bacteria and would reduce transmission of the coronavirus by 90%. However, the pesticide isn't registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, making it illegal to sell here in the states.
She used the U.S. Postal Service to mail it, which is also illegal.
EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodin said sales like this are not only exploitative but also can create a false sense of security from the virus in the community.
“Reliance on fraudulent products may increase the spread of COVID-19 and exacerbate the current public health emergency,” Bodin said.
The AG's office recommended Georgians should be particularly careful about clicking links to foreign websites, and stay wary of sellers trying to profit off resources that have been made scarce from panic buying.
Carr said any reports of fraud should be made to the Consumer Protection Division by going to consumer.ga.gov.