The median loss to fraudulent schemes that exploit the global health crisis is almost US$600.
The United States’ Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received more than 17,000 complaints from U.S. consumers who reported total losses in excess of US$13 million from COVID-19 related scams.
The FTC has compiled the data into an easily digestible infographic, which is updated regularly. At the time of writing, the total fraud losses since the start of this year amount to US$13.13 million, with a reported median loss of US$568.
The crime that was reported the most was the rather broad category of fraud with 9,634 complaints, with 46.4% of them reporting a loss. It’s safe to say that the official figures don’t paint the whole picture, however, as many scams go unreported.
Nevertheless, the largest number of complaints had to do with cancellations and refunds for travel- and vacation-related products and services (2,853), which translated into almost US$4.8 million in losses.
Scams related to online shopping was the second most-occurring crime, with 1,804 complaints resulting in almost US$1.5 million in losses. While con artists impersonating various businesses were the smallest group with only 384 cases, they amounted to the third greatest number of losses raking in almost US$1.2 million.
Most complaints came from the state of California, with 2,068 victims reporting that they were deceived by scammers. Florida, Texas and New York saw over 1,000 complaints each.
The FTC has launched a webpage with tips for consumers on how to recognize and avoid coronavirus-related scams, as well as to provide updates on the steps the agency is taking to battle these scams.
The COVID-19 pandemic surging around the world has evolved into a full-blown scam epidemic since fraudsters have started exploiting coronavirus fears. Scams have included impersonation of local and international health authorities such as the World Health Organization, as well as creating bogus online shops selling non-existent face masks. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to remain vigilant and verifying everything, even if it appears to be on the up and up at first glance.
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