Attorney General Dave Yost’s Coronavirus Resources & Guidance

Attorney General Dave Yost’s Coronavirus Resources & Guidance

With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting our work and home lives, the office of Attorney General Dave Yost is here to help. Whether you are trying to defend yourself against scams or protect your family, AG Yost has answers.

The Attorney General’s Office started receiving COVID-19-related complaints from Ohio residents in March 2020 and, in all, has fielded more than 3,560. To file a complaint about a scam or a business acting badly, visit www.OhioProtects.org.

For guidance and information beyond what is provided on this webpage, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov.

For Consumers

FAQ: Unemployment Benefits Identity Theft
Unemployment fraud help

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has been made aware of a high number of fraudulent claims regarding Unemployment Benefits issued through the state of Ohio. Although the Ohio Attorney General cannot make a determination as to the validity of a claim – that must be handled by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) – here are a few simple FAQs to address the situation.

Q: How do I know if someone has fraudulently filed for Unemployment Benefits in my name?

A: If you have received one or more of the following and you did not file for Unemployment Benefits in 2020, you may have had a fraudulent claim made in your name:

  • A 1099-G tax form.
  • A letter from ODJFS stating that Unemployment Benefits have been applied for in your name.
  • A US Bank ReliaCard for funds you do not recognize or were not expecting.
  • Notification from your employer that ODJFS is inquiring about Unemployment Benefits that you did not apply for.

Q: What should I do if I receive one of the forms/notifications listed above?

A: You should follow these steps, in order:

  1. Contact ODJFS immediately.

    You can report identity theft to ODJFS by completing an online form here or by visiting www.Unemployment.Ohio.Gov. You will need to enter personal information such as your Social Security number and your driver’s license number. If you do not have access to the internet, you can call ODJFS at 833-658-0394; please note wait times may be long.

    Once you’ve successfully filed your report, ODJFS will send a confirmation email, investigate the claim and issue a correction to the IRS if fraud is determined.

    Please note: There is not a mechanism in place for the Ohio Attorney General to contact ODJFS on your behalf to either start or expedite the process.

  2. Check your credit report.

    Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228 to do so. A credit report will show all credit-related accounts open in your name, such as mortgages, credit cards and car loans. Credit reports are free through April 2022, and after that date, you are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the main three credit reporting agencies. On your report, look for accounts and inquiries that you do not recognize. If you find anything suspicious, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (call 1-800-282-0515 or visit our identity theft web page).

  3. Consider placing an Initial Fraud Alert on your credit report.

    A fraud alert makes it harder for an identity thief to open credit accounts in your name and lasts for one year. You need to contact only one of the credit agencies listed below to place the alert; the one you contact will share the information with the other two. The agencies are:

    There is no charge to place an Initial Fraud Alert.

  4. Consider placing a permanent Security Freeze on your credit report.

    A Security Freeze will prevent others from opening credit in your name; such a freeze is free to place and is permanent. (You must pause or end it to open a new account.) Unlike an Initial Fraud Alert, for a Security Freeze, you must contact all three of the credit reporting agencies. Use the contact information listed above to do so.

Q: Can the Ohio Attorney General’s Office resolve my Unemployment Benefits claim?

A: Although the Ohio Attorney General’s Office provides many services to help victims of identity theft, the office cannot resolve Unemployment Benefits claims; only ODJFS can make an eligibility and/or fraud determination. However, if after checking your credit report, you find accounts that do not belong to you, you are encouraged to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Identity Theft Unit (800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov).

Q: Can the Ohio Attorney General help me with other tax-related issues, such as providing guidance on how to file my taxes in light of receiving a fraudulent 1099-G?

A: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office cannot help with filing taxes, but the following websites may be helpful:

Q: How can I protect myself from identity theft moving forward?

A: There are many ways in which you can protect yourself from further identity theft:

  • Never share personal information with someone who contacts you unexpectedly.
  • Place an Initial Fraud Alert or permanent Security Freeze on your credit reports.
  • Never carry unnecessary personal information, such as your Social Security card, in your wallet or purse.
  • Don’t conduct private business on personal WiFi.
  • Use hard-to-guess passwords, especially for websites in which you have personal information stored.  

You can find the Ohio Attorney General’s Identity Theft Basics flier here.

Scams to note

COVID-related Identity Theft​
 

COVID-related Gift Card Scams​
 

COVID-related Red Flags of a Scam​
 

More video advice

Full COVID-related Scam Video

Shortened COVID-related Scam Video

AG Yost Warns of an Outbreak of Scams


Avoid vaccination scams

The Attorney General's Office encourages Ohioans to watch out for scammers who might try to steal your money or personal information by dangling promises of a vaccination. Our tips:

  • Double-check any new “too-good-to-be-true” news or claims. Contact your family doctor, your local health department or the statewide Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 call center (1-833-427-5634) to check on issues you are unsure about.
  • Look for the red flags of a scam, such as: being asked to wire money or send a prepaid money card or gift card to a stranger; being pressured to act immediately; or being told to buy a product or service when the company refuses to provide any information in writing.
  • You likely will not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine during this public health emergency. You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine. You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine.
  • No one from a vaccine distribution site or health care payer, like a private insurance company, will call you asking for your Social Security number or your credit card or bank account information to sign you up to get the vaccine. Do not give out your personal information to someone you don’t know over the phone, email, social media or text.

Consumers who suspect an unfair business practice or want help addressing a consumer problem should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515. 

The state of Ohio provides official COVID-19 vaccination information on this website

General advice

  • Watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other expert sources with special advice or information about the coronavirus. Legitimate information is available for free on the CDC’s website.
  • Ignore online advertisements promoting cures for the coronavirus. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “There are no pills, lotions, lozenges or other prescriptions or over-the-counter products available to cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) online or in stores.” 
  • Research nonprofit organizations and crowdfunding campaigns before donating. A database of registered charities is available on the website of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Avoid groups that pressure you into donating, and never donate via cash, gift cards, wire transfer or prepaid money card. These are the preferred payment methods of scammers.
  • Be cautious of anyone going door to door offering coronavirus testing or temperature readings and requesting personal information. Call law enforcement immediately if you see a suspicious person. Never let strangers into your home.
  • Beware of emails and other attempts to “phish” for your personal, financial and medical information. When in doubt, do not share. If the source claims to be your bank or a government agency, confirm that it is legitimate by calling the organization at a phone number you have verified.
  • When online, avoid clicking on unknown links or pop-ups and never download any suspicious email attachment. Doing so could infect your devices with malicious software designed to steal your personal information or lock your computer until you pay a “ransom.”

Be a smart consumer


Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

Be aware that…
  • If you can’t pay your utility bills, your water cannot be legally shut off and Ohio’s emergency programs have been extended. Visit coronavirus.ohio.gov for more information.
  • If you're having problems paying your mortgage or rent, a new resource (a cooperative effort from several agencies of the federal government) offers up-to-date information on available housing assistance.
Price gouging

Price gouging is when a business or other seller drastically raises the price of an item that is temporarily in short supply, such as toilet paper and surgical masks. In Ohio, a state law bans unconscionable sales practices, which would include price gouging even though the law doesn’t define what constitutes gouging. Attorney General Yost is working with legislators to clarify the law while seeking to preserve the free market economy. For more information, see this press release.

Attorney General Yost and 32 other attorneys general have urged online businesses such as Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist to more rigorously fight price gouging by sellers using their services. Read more here.

Since the start of March 2020, the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General’s Office received more than 1,400 complaints about price gouging.

If you believe a business is charging unfair prices, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 1-800-282-0515.

COVID-19 stimulus checks

Federal stimulus checks

The federal government authorized two rounds of stimulus payments in 2020, all of which have been issued, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The “Economic Impact Payments” included money for each child and varying amounts for adults, depending on their income.

The federal government (as of March 11, 2021) authorized a third round of stimulus and further assistance. Details about disbursement will be forthcoming; if you're looking for information, stick to official websites from authorities on the topic, such as the IRS and the Treasury Department. For example, in the past, the IRS utilized this Economic Impact Payments page. to provide Americans with important information.

Stimulus checks: Protected from bill collectors

As the first round of stimulus checks were sent out, AG Yost warned creditors and financial institutions that the money was protected by Ohio law and exempt from state and federal attachment, garnishment or execution.

“Stimulus checks were intended to be used during an emergency – to put food on the table, keep the lights on and a roof over our heads,” Attorney General Yost said in a warning to bill collectors to keep their hands off. “They weren't meant to pay off an old bill.”

Read the AG's notice here.

Find more details in this news release.

For Families

Online dangers for kids

As kids spend more unsupervised time online, including for virtual learning, it is important to emphasize how to stay safe.

The Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Initiative offers a parent resource guide to help start conversations with kids about online dangers. It also shares tools to help families stay informed and make smart online decisions.

A second resource, Apps to Watch, explains how many popular apps work — and how they can help strangers connect with your kids or provide places to hide inappropriate material.