Skip to main content

Nearly $12 million stolen in coronavirus-related scams, FTC reports

The global coronavirus pandemic has caused not only worldwide health problems and economic issues, but has also lead to an uptick in unscrupulous scammers taking advantage of the situation to steal money and personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that it has received more than 15,000 complaints about coronavirus-related scams, with a total of almost $12 million lost due to fraud. Each person lost an average of over $500, the FTC reports. The most common frauds were related to travel or vacations, with online shopping coming in second.

FTC has received more than 15K Coronavirus-related reports from consumers. Consumers reported losing a total of almost $12M to fraud w/ a reported median loss of $576. Latest data now available (posted weekdays): #COVID19

— FTC (@FTC) April 10, 2020

Karen Hobbs, assistant director of the Division of Consumer and Business Education at the FTC, denounced the scammers this week.

“Scammers have no shame, and nothing — not even a global health crisis — is off limits,” she wrote. “They’re pitching fake coronavirus vaccines, unproven cures, and bogus at-home testing kits.”

The agency has a page on its website about avoiding such scams, including advice to ignore texts, emails, or calls regarding coronavirus testing that claim to be from the government, as well as online offers for vaccinations against the virus or home testing kits.

The agency is also taking action against sellers who are claiming that their products treat or prevent coronavirus, including teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) advises that “there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.”

The FTC has also warned that scams regarding stimulus checks being issued in the U.S. by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are also surging. People who qualify for these payments will receive them via direct deposit in the next few weeks, but scammers are calling people up and pretending to be government officials, or issuing official-looking fake checks, in order to steal money or personal information from the unsuspecting public.

“It’s not surprising that scammers are exploiting confusion about economic impact payments too,” Hobbs noted. “But it’s still shameful.”

If you are concerned about a coronavirus message you’ve received and you want to make sure you aren’t the victim of a scam, check out our guide to how to avoid being the victim of a coronavirus scam.

For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Huge digital waterfall wows travelers at Singapore’s Changi Airport
singapores changi airport unveils stunning digital features 1

Experience the magic of T2

Singapore’s Changi Airport won a prominent Best Airport award earlier this year, and that was even before it unveiled its dramatic revamp of Terminal 2.

Read more
GPT-4 Turbo is the biggest update since ChatGPT’s launch
A person typing on a laptop that is showing the ChatGPT generative AI website.

OpenAI has just unveiled the latest updates to its large language models (LLM) during its first developer conference, and the most notable improvement is the release of GPT-4 Turbo, which is currently entering preview. GPT-4 Turbo comes as an update to the existing GPT-4, bringing with it a greatly increased context window and access to much newer knowledge. Here's everything you need to know about GPT-4 Turbo.

OpenAI claims that the AI model will be more powerful while simultaneously being cheaper than its predecessors. Unlike the previous versions, it's been trained on information dating to April 2023. That's a hefty update on its own -- the latest version maxed out in September 2021. I just tested this myself, and indeed, using GPT-4 allows ChatGPT to draw information from events that happened up until April 2023, so that update is already live.

Read more
Robot crushes man to death after mistaking him for a box
A smart factory concept.

A robot crushed a man to death after apparently mistaking him for a box, South Korean media reported.

The tragedy occurred on Wednesday evening local time at a vegetable sorting facility in South Gyeongsang province about 150 miles south of Seoul, according to the BBC.

Read more