According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTA), there have been well over 200,000 scams related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Consumers have filed at least 205,000 fraud reports arising from the coronavirus since earlier in the year. The number doesn’t account for consumers who didn’t report scams involving them, so the number is likely to be much higher. The elderly, in particular, are more vulnerable to such fraud. Seniors 80 years old and older were victims of more than double the average loss amount, which was $300. Seniors 80 and older lost $655 on average.
In all, American consumers lost $145 million to COVID-19 fraudulent activities. One of the more common frauds included financial relief plots surrounding unemployment benefits and stimulus checks. False coronavirus treatments and fake charities were two of the other pathways used by con artists to cheat people out of money.
At its peak, there were 1,000 fraud cases reported by consumers each day during the months of April and May. The number has now fallen to 200 or fewer reports a day.
The Feds believe the number is underreported because many consumers don’t file reports or claims when involved in a fraud.
Experts say everyone should be on their guard. Investigate and research sources asking for money or claiming an easy solution for something. Consumers should be sure that every phone call, email, text message, or website they visit is legitimate and avoid offering personal information or giving money.
Consumers should also remain particularly wary of unsolicited phone calls or emails that claim to be from the IRS or Department of Treasury. Government offices rarely make personal appeals and will typically contact consumers by mail only.
The Department of Justice has opened a hotline in which consumers can report COVID-19 scams and frauds. The National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline number is 866-720-5721. Alternatively, consumers can file a complaint online.