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 3,400 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

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 877-644-6562; 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 2021, 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

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.” Vaccines are being rolled out to priority groups, but supplies have been limited.
  • 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

Stimulus checks: Round 2

The federal government authorized a second round of stimulus payments in December: up to $600 for each eligible adult and child. This assistance is technically referred to as “Economic Impact Payments” from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.

For the vast majority of people — especially those who received the earlier payment — no action is required to receive this assistance. Most payments will be sent as direct deposits, with others arriving as paper checks or debit cards. Payments started going out in early January, but further timing isn’t clear yet.

The new round directs:

  • $600 payments to single people who earn up to $75,000 (based on 2019 adjusted gross income).
  • $1,200 payments to married couples who earn up to $150,000.
  • Smaller payments to those earning more than the above amounts — payments are reduced by $5 for every $100 earned above those thresholds — up to $87,000 for single adults and $174,000 for married couples. People who earn more will not receive stimulus payments for themselves, but would receive money for any eligible children.
  • $600 for each child who is 16 or younger.
  • No money for dependents who are 17 or older.

For more information, make sure to visit only official websites, such as the IRS’s Economic Impact Payments page.

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.