TAMPA, Fla. - Every weekday, the Federal Trade Commission releases new data on coronavirus-related complaints based on fraud, do-not-call, identity theft and other reports from consumers. Looking at the most recent available numbers, more than 36,000 coronavirus-related fraud complaints have been filed so far this year with well over $24 million in losses.
Since the beginning of the year, consumers have called in to report losing millions of dollars due to the virus as fraudsters looked to capitalize on the pandemic. Robocalls are on the rise as scammers target people at home who could fall victim to fraud.
The new numbers also revealed Florida to be among the leading states in the nation when it comes to the number of complaints filed. As of May 5, the Sunshine State had the third-highest number overall with more than 2,500 complaints. Keep in mind, thousands of others get scammed every year but fail to report it for various reasons.
When it comes to the most commonly reported types of scams amid the outbreak, travel and vacation fraud takes first place, reported more than 5,800 times. The FTC points out that as it relates to coronavirus, this category mostly relates to refunds and cancellations.
Rounding out the top five most reported scams are online shopping fraud -- reported more than 3,700 times -- followed by texting scams, health care fraud and internet information scams.
As we look at the ways consumers are reporting getting contacted by scammers, phone is the most common way, followed by email, then internet browsing, consumer-initiated contact and ‘other.’
According to the FTC, when it comes to the forms of payments used, we see credit card being most common by far, followed by bank account debit, then internet or mobile payment. Rounding out the top five forms of payment were wire transfer and prepaid cards.
A piece of data coming out of this report that may surprise many: the age group with the highest number of complaints to the FTC is those in their 30s. The group with the next most complaints was people in their 40s.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends that consumers do five things to avoid being scammed:
• Ignore offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are selling products to treat or prevent COVID-19 without proof that they work.
• Hang up on robocalls. Scammers use illegal sales calls to get your money and your personal information.
• Watch out for phishing emails and text messages. Don’t click on links in emails or texts you didn’t expect.
• Research before you donate. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. Get tips on donating wisely at ftc.gov/charity.
Those who’ve filed coronavirus-related complaints with the FTC have lost a median of more than $500 per person.