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COVID-19 related scams on the rise

Updated: April 01, 2020 11:11 PM

We all know to be weary of scams, but during a pandemic when things are chaotic and scammers prey on fear, we can sometimes be taken off guard. On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission reported a jump in COVID-19 related scams. 

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According to the Federal Trade Commission, the top categories of coronavirus-related fraud complaints include travel and vacation related reports about cancellations and refunds, reports about problems with online shopping, mobile texting scams, and government and business imposter scams. In fraud complaints that mentioned the coronavirus, the Federal Trade Commission said consumers reported losing a total of $4.77 million, with a reported median loss of $598.

“People are getting contacted about buying medical supplies, COVID-19 test kits. The census—people are being contacted that they will not get their stimulus check if they do not compete the census. This is false,” Rick Revoir, Dean of the Stender School of Business and Technology at College of St. Scholastica said.

According to Revoir who has taught courses in ethics, healthcare finance and accounting, these scams are similar to other scams in the way that they are carried out. What makes them unique, however, is that people may be more susceptible to fall for them due to the amount of time they are spending on their devices while working and learning from home.

“What’s unique right now is that we’re spending most of our time at home. Some people have more time to spend on social media and email on the internet and scammers are trying to take advantage of that,” Revoir said.

Typically, these scams come in the form of texts, emails or phone calls, but people reported to the Federal Trade Commission that phone calls were the most common way they were contacted by scammers.

Revoir said the best way for people to protect themselves is to avoid giving out their personal information.

“It’s very easy for people to search the internet and find your name and people related to you so this is how scammers impersonate others—mainly by trying to convince you that a relative needs help or needs financial assistance,” Revoir said. “If someone contacts you and says a friend or a relative needs help, be skeptical and hang up and call that person.”

Additionally, Revoir said people should pay close attention to texts and emails to look for spelling and grammatical errors, which can be red flags.

“They’ll take the organization’s name and they’ll slightly change it or they’ll take the email address and they’ll add some numbers to it, so it looks legit but if you’re familiar with the correct emails, you’ll know that its the wrong emails,” Revoir said.

The Federal Trade Commission also recommends that people avoid phone calls with unfamiliar numbers, keep their passwords private and consider making their social media pages private. More tips from the Federal Trade Commission to avoid scams can be found here. To file a complaint, click here.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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