Pandemic Fraudsters Swindled Nearly $500 Million From Americans — And They’re Not Finished Yet

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Since the start of the pandemic, Americans have lost nearly $500 million in COVID-related scams, according to data from the Federal Trade Commission. The agency is now warning that scammers may try to take advantage of families receiving monthly child tax credit payments.

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According to federal data, more than 544,000 people filed a complaint — from fraud, identity theft, do not call and others — to the agency between January 1, 2020, and July 8 of this year. Victims lost a combined $488 million, CNBC pointed out, with the typical person losing $366. Meanwhile, seniors have been the biggest target for scams, with losses three times higher and the typical person over the age of 80 losing $1,000 due to fraud.

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The top reports were scams related to online shopping, travel, the credit bureaus, diet products and credit cards. Scammers have resorted to phishing emails and texts, fake social media posts, robocalls, impostor schemes and more, mentions AARP. They also closely follow the headlines and alter their messages and tactics as new medical and economic issues arise.

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Federal data only shows what’s been reported; however, actual numbers may be much higher. Victims lost the most ($77 million) to vacation and travel scams mostly relating to refunds and cancellations, according to FTC officials. The Better Business Bureau reported that fraudsters were creating fake airline ticket booking sites or customer service numbers to trick unsuspecting travelers, reports CNBC.

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“When money from the government is in the news, we know scammers are about to run their standard playbook. They may call, email, text or DM you. They’ll say they can help you get your payments earlier (they can’t), get you more money (also no), or tell you other lies (for sure),” wrote Lisa Lake, Consumer Education Specialist at the FTC, also reported by CNBC.

With child tax credit payments set to roll out today, it’s important to remain on guard and recognize any signs of potential fraud, especially if anyone is reaching out to you regarding payments and not the other way around.

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Last updated: July 15, 2021

About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.

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