The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a summary of fraud complaints due to COVID-19. The study includes data from January 1, 2020 through April 27, 2020. During that time frame, there have been 27,820 reports resulting in $20.44 million in fraud losses.
Here is a rundown of the top three types of fraud schemes that have occurred to date:
- Travel/Vacations – criminals are contacting individuals claiming to be able to help refund the cost of a holiday that has been cancelled as a result of COVID-19. Anyone receiving a call or email from someone purporting to be from a travel company or airline offering anything travel-related should be cautious and contact their travel company, travel agent or airline directly.
- Online shopping and offers – Beware of online sellers who are price gouging and promoting in demand items (masks as an example) are in stock and are never shipped. There are also online sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent COVID-19.
- Fraudulent calls, text messaging and emails that are supposedly from government agencies– The FTC is getting a lot of reports about fraudulent calls, texts, and emails coming from people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, Census, USCIS and the FDIC. These fake government messages might say that you’re approved for money, can get quick relief payments, or get cash grants due to the Coronavirus. Scammers might also promise you small business loans or send an email alert that a check is ready to be picked up. These are all scams, and none of those messages come from a government agency.Stimulus money texts and Medicare scams are also prevalent. Scammers might call to offer things like a “COVID-19 Kit,” “Coronavirus Package,” or Medicare benefits related to the virus. But they’ll ask you to verify personal information like your bank account, Social Security, or Medicare numbers. If you get a call from someone who says they’re a Medicare representative and they ask for this information, hang up. It’s a scam, not Medicare calling. Report it to the FTC at gov/complaint.
Additional Tips to Keep You Safe
Here are some additional tips to help you facing these and other challenges during the pandemic, including:
- If your airline or hotel won’t give you a cash refund, see if your credit card company reimburses non-refundable travel during the pandemic.
- Report price gouging to the company and to your state attorney general if you spot excessively priced safety supplies, such as hand sanitizer.
- Beware of phishing scams. Avoid clicking on links or attachments from unsolicited emails and texts. Don’t provide personal or financial information through email or text.
- If anyone reaches out to you claiming to be from a government agency or business, call a number for the agency or company that you know to be correct.
- Defend against fraud and identity theft by checking your financial statements regularly and getting credit freezes.
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