Hughes: COVID-19 scams on rise; be wary

Hughes: COVID-19 scams on rise; be wary

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Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes warns residents that as the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency intensifies, scammers are ramping up their efforts to take advantage of consumers.

“This has been a problem since the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak,” Mr. Hughes said. “But scammers are now becoming more creative and unscrupulous. Keep your guard up and don’t become a victim.”

The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to help keep scammers at bay:

• Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit the state’s new COVID-19 website or visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
• Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO).
• Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes.
• Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
• Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19 — online or in stores.

Mr. Hughes also continues to warn consumers about price gouging related to fears surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. New Jersey’s price-gouging law is in effect and prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency. Excessive price increases are defined as price increases that are more than 10 percent higher than the price at which merchandise was sold during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency.

Consumers who believe they were targeted by a scheme related to COVID-19, or who believe that businesses have unfairly increased their prices, are encouraged to file a complaint online or call the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at 973-504-6240. Consumers should leave their name, contact information, nature of the complaint and the name and address of the business. Complaints and will be checked regularly, even when state offices are closed.


Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure (based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses).

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Call ahead to a health care professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread. Tell your health care professional about your recent travel or contact. Your health care professional will work with the State Health Department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.

For more information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick, visit


Everyone can play a part in responding to this emerging, rapidly evolving public health threat. It is currently flu and respiratory disease season and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a flu vaccine and taking everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs. This includes:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practice social distancing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect recently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

More information from the CDC: How to Protect Yourself.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and which has now been detected in more than 140 locations internationally, including cases in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).


The New Jersey Department of Health on March 21 announced 442 new positive cases, bringing the total of positive cases in the state to 1,327, with 16 deaths. The most positive cases are in Bergen County, which has 363; Mercer County has 30. Visit the New Jersey Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard  for more information.

The CDC on March 20 announced a total of 15,219 cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and a total of 201 deaths, with 54 locations (50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands) reporting cases. This includes both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 reported to CDC or tested at CDC since Jan. 21, 2020. State and local public health departments are now testing and publicly reporting their cases.

The federal government has been working closely with state and local partners, as well as public health partners, to respond to this public health threat. Unprecedented, aggressive efforts have been taken to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of this virus.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. CDC will continue to update the public as circumstances warrant.  For more information about COVID-19 visit


Have general questions about COVID-19? — The NJ Poison Control Center and 211 have partnered with the state to provide information to the public on COVID-19Call 2-1-1 or call (24/7) 1-800-962-1253; or text NJCOVID to 898-211; or text your ZIP code to 898-211 for live text assistance; or visit for additional information.

Coping with Stress. Stress and anxiety are real emotions during unsettling times. The Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) and the New Jersey Department of Health offer good advice on how to deal with heightened emotions. If you or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (TTY 1-800-846-8517).

For handouts and posters on the coronavirus to share with your coworkers, family and friends, please visit the CDC at:

Information for Travel. At this time, the CDC recommends avoiding nonessential travel to China, Iran, most European countries, United Kingdom and Ireland, Malaysia and South Korea. Updated travel information specific to COVID-19 can be found at:

We will present you with updated information as it becomes available to us at Mercer County, and we assure you that we will actively collaborate with our partners in health at the state and federal levels.

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