coronavirus scams

Scammers Continue to Cash In on Coronavirus Pandemic

Fraud claims to the Federal Trade Commission spiked as the COVID-19 vaccine began to roll out

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Scammers follow the headlines, especially when it came to the coronavirus.

According to newly released data by the Federal Trade Commission, nationwide there have been more than 338,000 consumer reports about COVID-related scams and fraud.

In Illinois, there have been 5,464 complaints of fraud since the start of the pandemic, costing residents $11.74 million dollars in COVID-19 related losses.

Online shopping topped the reports list, followed by vacation and travel. But the scammers are now jumping on the latest opportunity - the vaccine.

“They will be making phone calls, they will be sending texts, they will be sending emails," said Colleen Tressler of the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education. "Some people are bold enough to come knock on your door."

Tressler warned against clicking on any links or attachments you may receive via text or email.

Instead, open up a separate browser, and type in the actual organization's web address. Look for their email contact information, and see if it matches up to the email you received. That's one way to do your own fact-checking, according to Tressler.

"Don't necessarily trust what's coming into you. You really need to be proactive and search on your own," she said.

In some cases, people are asking for personal information they could use to steal your identity.

Or they may promise to get you a spot in the vaccine line for a price.

You can't get to the head of the line by paying anyone a fee,” Tressler said.

The FTC warned that imposters may pretend they’re with a federal, state or local agency. If they ask for personal information such as your Social Security card number, your bank account number or your credit card number, beware.

If you believe you were the target of fraud, you may report it to the FTC by visiting FTC.gov and filing a report online. According to the FTC, your information will go into a secure database which is then shared with law enforcement across the country.

When it comes to COVID-19 and getting vaccinated, there’s no sign the fraudsters will stop their crimes of opportunity.

“I think scammers, they cast a wide net," Tressler warned. "They see who they can catch. And unfortunately, in this instance, it's been a real issue.”

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