When there’s chaos, there’s also opportunity.
And certainly since March 2020, there’s been quite a bit of chaos in the United States thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The opportunity? Well, let’s just say that scammers are taking advantage of the chaos. According to a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have been scammed out of about $545 million in COVID-related fraud over the course of the pandemic thus far. And while the average loss was less than $400, more than half a million consumer complaints have been filed to date. What’s more is that experts say that the true scope of scam activity is likely much higher – many people don’t report such activity to the FTC.
In this post, we’ll talk about some of the most popular COVID-related fraud schemes and what you can do to prevent becoming a statistic. Here’s a look:
Most Common COVID Scams
So what are the most common COVID-related scams? Topping the cake is price gouging, or when consumers are charged ridiculous prices for products in high demand. Some of the most priced gouged items include the likes of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and facial coverings/masks.
In addition to price gouging, many opportunistic websites popped up during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to take advantage of a surge in online shopping as many Americans stayed home and ordered online rather than brave the stores.
And then there are travel scams. From timeshares to refund scams to even faulty coronavirus tests so that people could travel, this category represented the most loss. What’s more is that these travel scams are still occurring. With many people flying and vacationing yet again, scammers are now operating phony ticketing websites that appear to be selling airfare.
How to Avoid COVID Scams
So what’s the best way to avoid becoming a victim of a COVID scam? There are plenty of tips and tricks to implement. Here’s a look at some of them:
- Only shop on reputable websites: If something seems too good to be true, it’s probably because it is too good to be true. Stick to the sites you know and trust.
- Never buy a vaccine: COVID vaccines are free, so if anyone is attempting to sell you one, they clearly have more ulterior motives than just protecting you from the virus.
- Don’t take someone’s word on testing or vaccine requirements. Be sure to check with the airline, event venue and cruise line to learn what is and is not required before you travel or attend an event. Many people are hoping to profit off of disinformation and fear.
- Though product supply has stabilized, if you see evidence of obvious price gouging in stores, contact the authorities and notify them.
- Always check with your doctor on COVID-19 treatment and prevention tools.