Crises as broad and fear-inducing as the COVID-19 pandemic tempt scammers to prey on people when they are most vulnerable. With government stimulus benefits comes another lure for criminals to try to steal consumers’ information or money.
The State Bar is alerting consumers (flyer in English | Spanish) to watch out for and report potential fraud.
Here are important things to know and watch for:
Impostor scams are the most frequently reported type of fraud. Persons may pretend to be lawyers, government officials, charities, or other trusted figures to steal from the public. Be cautious of:
California law prohibits lawyers or others acting on behalf of a lawyer from:
If you need legal help related to employment, bills, or other COVID-19 related issues, a certified lawyer referral service can be a safe and effective way to find help. Use our website to find one in your area, or call 866-44-CA-LAW.
Before hiring an attorney, check the State Bar website to confirm that the person is actually an attorney, see their license status, and find out whether they have any record of discipline.
Scammers have been known to impersonate or steal the identities of legitimately licensed attorneys. Be wary of third parties who provide you the name of an attorney as an intermediary for a deal (such as sale of a timeshare). Check the State Bar website to verify that the contact information—address, telephone, and email—matches. If in doubt, use the contact information on the State Bar’s website to contact the attorney directly.
Offering legal services without a license is a crime. If you suspect someone is offering legal services without a license, contact local law enforcement and please notify the State Bar by filing a nonattorney complaint, enabling us to investigate and prevent others from becoming victims of fraud.
The federal government has already received thousands of reports of COVID-19 related fraud nationwide. If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, report it to local law enforcement as well as the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at email@example.com.
Report suspected COVID-19 fraud to: tips.fbi.gov or suspected cyberscams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.
Many city governments have set up hotlines for reporting COVID-19-related price gouging and other fraud. Check your city government website.
Federal Bureau of Investigation: Protect yourself from Pandemic Scammers
Federal Trade Commission: Avoid Coronavirus Scams
US Department of Justice: COVID-19 Fraud Alerts