September 25, 2020 — Americans have lost about $145 million in fraud related to coronavirus, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Thursday.
The agency said it had received more than 205,000 complaints since the first of the year, with the average loss being around $300. The elderly reported much higher losses, averaging $655 per person.
The people who filed complaints were often victims of financial fraud targeting federal stimulus payments, unemployment payments, and other government benefits, the Federal Trade Commission said.
Other schemes involved selling personal protective equipment and home testing kits that had not been approved by the FDA.
“I’m not shocked that scams have been on the rise,” said Lucy Baker, a consumer defense associate at the United States Public Interest Research Group, according to the New York Times. “Scammers love natural disasters, especially in this environment where everyone is vulnerable.”
The information was compiled by the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, which said fraud complaints have decreased since a peak in the spring.
In April, two manufacturers of N95 face masks reported that somebody was selling counterfeit masks. A retired doctor, who runs a website that debunks reportedly scientific claims, said that people were selling pills that were advertised as being able to prevent or cure coronavirus.
In July, the FBI warned consumers that unapproved antibody tests were being marketed.
The FBI said that individuals committing fraud are also trying to get people’s personal information — such as names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers — as well as personal health information. This health information includes Medicare and/or private health insurance info. This information can be used in insurance schemes and identity theft.