Aurora, state officials warn residents to watch for fraud, price gouging as pandemic spreads

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AURORA | A growing list of federal, state and local agencies continue to warn Aurora region residents to be wary of scammers interested in taking advantage of fearful residents during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, the state Attorney General’s Office and the local U.S. Attorney for Colorado are just a few of the entities that have urged residents to be on the lookout for Covid-19 scams, and to reach out to those most likely to fall victims to such guises.

In a video message issued last week, Arapahoe County Sheriff Tyler Brown encouraged residents to contact elderly neighbors and relatives to ensure they’re not being targeted by fraudsters.

“Take the opportunity to reach out and call your seniors neighbor to make sure that they’re dealing with the pandemic isolation and that they’re not being taken advantage of,” Brown said in a video.

The local sheriff told residents to ask seniors if they’ve been asked to send or wire money, been approached by salesmen plying vaccines or cures, or been contacted by people asking for personal information like social security numbers.

In a tweet, state Attorney General Phil Weiser also urged Coloradans to be mindful of price gouging while stores scramble to keep their shelves stocked.

“If you see extreme price gouging out there, please report it to StopFraudColorado.gov,” Weiser wrote in a tweet. ” … Consumers should remember who acts responsibly during this time and who seeks to take advantage of consumers.”

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann was among the first public officials to warn residents of scams related to Covid-19 last week, saying federal conversations about sending direct checks to Americans has been a veritable field day for scammers.

“The fraudsters are already actively asking people (through) phone calls and email to provide their social security number or bank account information to expedite receipt of the check,” a spokeswoman for McCann’s office wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, millennials are the most susceptible to this scam. Additionally, 20 to 30-year olds are less skeptical of things online. They are more inclined to ‘click on something’ versus opening another window and manually typing in the site URL, the side effect scam being malware or Trojans.”

On Saturday, Colorado’s U.S. Attorney appointed a member for his staff to serve as his office’s “coronavirus fraud coordinator” in an effort to prevent ruses related to the virus.

“While this virus may be new to Colorado, fraud is not,” local U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn said in a statement. “My office and I will be steadfast in protecting the citizens of Colorado at a time when they may be particularly vulnerable to financial scams.”

Residents who believe they have been scammed are encouraged to call either the state attorney general’s fraud hotline at 800-222-4444 or visit StopFraudColorado.gov. Aurorans can also call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721, or email [email protected]