Scammers have been quick to prey on consumer fears about swine flu, and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says he has already seen evidence of that in his state.
Telephone solicitors reportedly have called Indiana residents in an effort to sell "mandatory swine flu kits," claiming that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are requiring their purchase.
Such claims, of course, are false and fraudulent. No level of government is requiring the purchase of a safety kit for the North American Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak. Moreover, a medical diagnosis should be left to a medical professional.
"Not only are these telephone solicitors cynically exploiting people's fears in order to commit fraud, but they also may be violating Indiana's telephone privacy laws," Zoeller said. "Depending on who was contacted, this scam may violate Indiana's Do Not Call statute; and if an unauthorized prerecorded message is used, it would violate Indiana's Auto-Dialer statute as well. In either event, consumers who receive such calls should keep the number, if possible, so that our office can investigate."
The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is encouraging consumers to maintain good hygiene practices, such as washing their hands often, and avoiding those who might be ill. The Attorney General issued the consumer advisory after county emergency management agencies notified the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) of the fraudulent calls to businesses in their communities.
"In outbreak situations, scam artists are often ready to take advantage of public concern," Indiana Department of Homeland Security Executive Director Joe Wainscott said. "People should be especially alert for solicitors who speak on behalf of state and federal agencies."