Sep 5, 2020 - Economy

Scammers have stolen over $130 million in coronavirus-related schemes

A photo of a coronavirus economic assistance check.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Over 100,000 Americans have collectively reported roughly $132 million in fraud losses from scams related to the coronavirus and government stimulus checks since the March start of the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Coronavirus-related fraud complaints peaked in May when the IRS began sending its first round of stimulus checks. Congress recently proposed a second round of stimulus.

How it works: Scammers around the world know the government is flooding the American economy with cash and some are taking advantage of health-related fears and the wave of home shoppers to divert chunks of that money.

  • Scams commonly offer coronavirus vaccines, cures, air filters and tests on fake websites, while others operate through fabricated coronavirus-related charities and fake “persons in need” schemes in which scammers pose as family, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • "It is often the case that, following reports of a health scare, deceptive advertising or marketing touting 'miracle cures' quickly emerge. The COVID-19 pandemic has put this cause and effect scenario into overdrive," Andrew Smith, director of the commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, told Congress in July.
  • The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned on Aug. 12 that it was tracking a malicious cyber actor who was "spoofing the Small Business Administration (SBA) COVID-19 loan relief webpage via phishing emails."

By the numbers: More than 28,000 victims had their identities stolen through coronavirus-related scams since the start of the pandemic.

  • 30- to 39-year-olds have filed more than 7,000 coronavirus fraud reports — the most of all other age groups. 40- to 49-year-olds have lost the most money to such scams, with a total of around $14.9 million.

Flashback: Around 23,000 Americans reported losing $18 million to coronavirus frauds in mid-April.

The big picture: 44 state attorneys general have so far signed a letter urging Congress to amend the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 to allow senior victims of fraud to receive funds from crime victim funds in states that offer such compensation.

  • People in California, Florida, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania — the most populous states in the U.S. — filed the most fraud reports, according to FTC data.

Go deeper: Tips for avoiding coronavirus scams

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