Attorney General Dave Yost’s Coronavirus Resources & Guidance

Attorney General Dave Yost’s Coronavirus Resources & Guidance

With our work and home lives greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the office of Attorney General Dave Yost is here to help. Whether you are a consumer trying to avoid scams or a member of a public body with questions about open meetings, AG Yost has answers.

Since the start of March, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than 3,060 COVID-19-related complaints from Ohio residents. To file a complaint about 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

Scams to note

 

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 currently are no vaccines, pills, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or 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, as toilet paper and surgical masks currently are. 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, the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General’s Office received more than 1,170 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.

Support local businesses

Local businesses reopening

The state of Ohio authorizes many different types of businesses to be open, with some limitations, as long as they take precautions to protect the health of their customers and employees. Find more details on this webpage.

The vast majority of local stores, restaurants and services are diligently following Ohio Health Department recommendations in this time of social distancing. However, if you find a business that is failing to live up to its responsibilities, file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office at OhioProtects.org.

Canceled events: Refunds or rescheduled?

Many consumers are questioning what to do about events for which they had purchased tickets. The most up-to-date information can be found by calling or visting the website of the venue or ticket seller. The Attorney General's Office compiled contact information and gives other advice here.

The federal government authorized a single round of stimulus payments in April. No agreement has been reached to send additional stimulus money to Americans. If someone tells you you’re getting more money, especially if they’re trying to sell you something, be skeptical.

COVID-19 stimulus checks

The federal government authorized a single round of stimulus payments in April. No agreement has been reached to send additional stimulus money to Americans. If someone tells you that you’re getting more money, especially if they’re trying to sell you something, be skeptical.

Stimulus checks: Protected from bill collectors

As stimulus checks were sent to citizens, 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.

Travel advisory

Ohioans are required to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning from states reporting positive COVD-19 testing rates of 15% or higher. To check which states currently meet that criteria, visit this webpage.

For Governmental Bodies and the Justice System

Open meetings

On March 27, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law House Bill 197, allowing members of public bodies to hold and attend meetings, and to conduct hearings, by teleconference, video conference or any similar electronic technology. Such meetings are legal for as long as the governor’s coronavirus emergency remains in effect, up until Dec. 1, 2020.

The details:

  • Members attending the meeting through the body’s chosen electronic method count as present and count toward a quorum. They are permitted to vote on any issues that come before the body.
  • Any resolution, rule or other formal action taken or adopted by the public body during such a session will have the same effect as one taken during an in-person meeting.
  • The public body is required to give notice of the meeting to the media and other parties requiring notice at least 24 hours before it takes place. In an emergency situation, the public body must give notice as soon as practical.
  • Members of the public must be provided access to the public body’s discussions and deliberations conducted via the electronic method to the same extent that they would get from attending in person. That includes the ability for the viewer/listener to hear every member participating in person or electronically. Examples of electronic methods that afford public access (and that are cited in the law) include live-streaming via the internet; local radio, television, cable or public access channels; and calling in to a teleconference.
  • For a public hearing, the electronic method the public body uses for the meeting must be widely available to the public and must permit the public to converse with witnesses and receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.

For more information on the legislation that was passed, click here.

For frequently asked questions, click here.

Law enforcement

Staffing

The need for ample law enforcement officers to protect Ohioans is critical, but given the nature of their job, officers don’t have the option to work from home. What’s more, their frequent interactions with the public put them at increased risk of catching the coronavirus.

To help bolster their ranks, or provide backup should officers get sick, Attorney General Yost has directed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) to expedite the final examinations of about 300 police cadets who have completed their schooling.

The attorney general also is working with local agencies to create a pathway for recently retired law enforcement officers in good standing to return to the streets. This would involve an extended period to complete required OPOTA training, as well as potentially minimized training requirements. More than 1,000 peace officers retire each year in Ohio.

For more information, read this press release.

Resources for enforcing health orders

Local law enforcement agencies might find that businesses or individuals in their area are putting the community’s health at greater risk by flouting the emergency orders of Ohio Health Director Amy Acton. The Attorney General’s Office supports enforcement of Dr. Action’s Stay-at-Home Order and offers the following guidance to local authorities statewide.

Law enforcement webinar

In this video, Attorney General Yost and other experts from his office explain what rules Ohioans should be following; the associated statutes, remedies and criminal penalties; and pleadings, letters and other communications that can be sent to businesses.

 

Sample documents

In Parma Heights, a consignment home furnishings shop — clearly not an essential business — refused to close, even after Parma Heights police officers issued a misdemeanor citation. The county prosecutor, at the local health department’s request, filed a case in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to force the business to close. These documents can serve as models or otherwise help as you craft your own court filings:

The following links contain letters sent by Attorney General Yost to businesses that were allegedly violating the stay-at-home order.