Concerns grow over scams, price gouging during COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted at 2:37 PM, Apr 21, 2020

San Luis Obispo County is warning about a new scam related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials say the scam involves a text message that says someone you know has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and includes a link. Officials say you should NOT click on the link.

If you've been known to be in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, officials say you would receive a call from a health professional -- never a text.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has also issued a warning about free trial offer scams.

While free trial offers are not illegal, the BBB says scammers are now using free trial offers to take advantage of the desire for video streaming services, such as Netflix.

To receive a fake pass, those clicking on a link may be directed to provide personal information and send the offer to friends. The BBB says scammers are likely phishing for personal and banking information or to distribute malware.

The BBB urges consumers to:

  • Examine online free trial offers carefully
  • Resist being swayed by the phony use of a well-known name
  • Report free trial offer scams to BBB Scam Tracker
  • Report losses to credit card companies

Meantime, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow says his office is investigating multiple consumer complaints of price gouging.

A recent executive order by California Governor Gavin Newsom finds that a price is "unconscionably excessive" if a business marks up the price to the public by more than 50% of its cost.

Violation of price gouging laws can result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Dow says his staff has been in contact with local businesses to make sure they're aware of the law, but he expects consumer complaints to rise as more businesses receive shipments of face masks from overseas at higher than standard costs.

To report suspected price gouging in San Luis Obispo County, call (805) 781-5800 or email

In Santa Barbara County, call (805) 568-2300.