By Karen Hobbs
division of consumer and business education, FTC
Every day, the FTC is collecting data, watching the numbers and spotting the trends. We’re also spreading the word about COVID-19-related scams. Because the more you know about what’s happening, the easier it will be to protect yourself and others from these scams.
So far, we have gotten more than 175,000 COVID-19-related reports about fraud, identity theft, Do Not Call and other consumer protection problems. You can find out about trends in your own community by clicking on your state, but recent national data shows that online shopping is the #1 fraud complaint and has caused $16 million in reported losses. These are scams that trick people into ordering products like masks, hand sanitizer and other high-demand items that never arrive. People are also reporting scam text messages related to bogus offers to earn income, phony economic relief programs, fake charities and government imposters.
As part of broader trend, the overall number of Do Not Call complaints are starting to pick up again after months of decline. As the scammers take to the phones again, you can expect to see an uptick in popular phone scams, like government imposter scams that exploit the pandemic or economic stimulus programs.
To help you stay ahead of these scams, keep these tips in mind and pass them along to family, friends and your community:
• Before you order from an unfamiliar online store, check out the company or product online first. Pay by credit card, so you can dispute the billing error, report it to your credit card company and get your money back if something goes wrong.
• Don’t pay money or give out your personal information in response to calls, emails or texts that say they’re from the government. The government will never call out of the blue to ask for money or your personal information (like Social Security, bank a count, or credit card numbers).
Keep up with the latest scams, and what the FTC is doing, by signing up to get Consumer Alerts. And please keep reporting what you’re seeing at ftc.gov/complaint.