L.A. County cracking down on price gouging and scammers as coronavirus fears trigger panic-buying

Coronavirus

As more novel coronavirus cases are confirmed across Los Angeles County, heightening fears and leading shoppers to flock to the stores, officials on Friday announced a task force to deal with scammers and price gouging.

With long lines and empty shelves at stores becoming more prevalent throughout Southern California, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer and county District Attorney Jackie Lacey held a news conference Friday to warn residents of illegal price hikes and advertisements for fake cures.

“We’re fighting to protect an anxious and uncertain public from price-gouging, online scams and misinformation,” Feuer said in a news release.

Feuer said his office found a half-gallon of bleach being sold for over $100 and two one-liter containers of hand sanitizer being sold for $149 on Amazon.

“Some people are using the pandemic to take advantage of the vulnerable and those who fear for their very safety,” Lacey said at the news conference.

Officials said there have already been fraudulent advertisements for coronavirus vaccines, treatments and cures, including unsubstantiated claims that silver solution can cure COVID-19 and that vitamin C can protect against infection.

“As prosecutors, we see first-hand how consumer fraud can infringe on our sense of security, shatter our trust and endanger our well-being,” Lacey said. “The consequences of today’s scams are more than just financial. These frauds may affect our health and the health of those around us.”

Price gouging is a crime during a state emergency and the law prohibits a more than 10% price increase on consumer goods and medical supplies.

Those found guilty of price gouging could face up to one year in county jail and a $10,000 fine, according to the DA’s office.

“My deputy district attorneys are on the lookout for these scams and will use all the tools at their disposal to close down these fraudulent enterprises,” Lacey said.

L.A. County residents were encouraged to call 213-978-8340 to report scams or price gouging.

The number of novel coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County reached 40 as health officials announced eight new cases Friday.

Six of the county’s cases are suspected of being community-acquired and health officials are urging residents to practice “social distancing.”

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