Scammers have Swiped Millions from Americans in COVID-Related Fraud

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An FTC report shows the extent to which scammers have used the pandemic as a means of taking people’s money.

Whenever some manner of disaster strikes humanity, people tend to direct their money towards means of protecting themselves from said disaster. When the COVID-19 pandemic first began in earnest last year, retailers were swamped with requests for protective products such as face masks, protective gloves, and hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, along with increased desires for particular products often come scammers looking to exploit that desire, and the pandemic has been no exception.

According to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission, Americans have lost over $545 million to COVID-related fraud since the beginning of 2020. Between then and now, the FTC has received nearly 589,000 consumer complaints, the majority of which have been concretely classified as fraud. The precise nature of this fraud has varied greatly, ranging from price-gouging to full-on false advertising. Many customers of online retail platforms have filed complaints of being charged extremely high prices for items like hand sanitizer or face masks, while others have attempted to order allegedly helpful items like self-sanitizing gloves and either received a faulty product or nothing.

As the FTC’s report only accounts for complaints made directly to them, the actual scope of COVID-related fraud is likely much higher than reported. As the pandemic relegated Americans to their homes, online shopping increased dramatically from the beginning of 2020. As not all users are aware of the potential hazards of skimming Google for certain products, many have been baited into using shady websites to order products they may have been having trouble obtaining from legitimate sources.

When COVID cases began dropping earlier in the summer, the desire for travel increased, which led to an additional surge in travel scams. People who were eager to get out of their homes and go elsewhere were drawn in by promising vacation packages, only to find the airline tickets they paid for were counterfeit, the seller having disappeared without a trace.

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