This year, Americans have lost over $100 million to stimulus check and COVID-19 fraud, according to a new study by The Ascent. Although reports of fraud have trended down since May, we could see them spike again as another round of stimulus checks is on the horizon.
The Ascent, a personal finance brand by The Motley Fool, analyzed data from the Federal Trade Commission to identify where consumers are most at risk of stimulus check and COVID-19 fraud occurring.
- Consumers reported 9,677 cases of fraud where they were contacted by phone. That’s more than any other type of contact method. But fraud via email resulted in the most losses, at almost $18 million.
- Consumers between the ages of 30 and 39 posted the highest number of fraud reports, but only had the fourth-highest dollar losses. Those in the 40–49 age group had the largest losses with over $12 million.
- Consumers in 15 states, as well as Puerto Rico, had median fraud losses of at least $300. That’s at least a full quarter of their $1,200 stimulus checks (if they received one).
- Californians lost the most due to fraud ($15.63 million) by a wide margin, with losses that are more than double that of second-place New York.
- Credit cards were the most common payment method used by victims of COVID-19 scams, yet wire transfers resulted in the largest losses ($24.64 million), likely because there are far fewer consumer protections.
What is COVID-19 Fraud?
Technically speaking, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) classifies a report as COVID-19 fraud or identity theft if a consumer mentions specific terms in said report, such as “COVID” or “stimulus.”
Here are some examples from the FTC of common COVID-19 fraud:
- Offers for at-home COVID-19 test kits or vaccinations
- Robocalls offering scam services, such as inexpensive health insurance or work-from-home jobs
Those are just a few of the many types of fraud that are out there, because scam artists have gotten creative with their methods.
COVID-19 fraud losses by state (top 10)
Fraud reports by population (top 10)
How to protect yourself from fraud
Now that you’ve seen the numbers on COVID-19 fraud, how can you avoid it? Here are several tips that can help, starting with one covering what to do if a thief steals your stimulus payment:
- For a stolen stimulus payment, or if you suspect your stimulus was stolen, file a report at IdentityTheft.gov. Your report will be sent to both the IRS and the FTC. You can also call the IRS, although there may be long wait times.
- Don’t purchase at-home COVID-19 testing kits or treatments. They don’t work, and these are popular items among scammers.
- If you get any robocalls (calls that start with pre-recorded messages), hang up. Criminals use calls like this to obtain your information and potentially steal your money.
- Avoid sending money unless you’re absolutely certain you’re dealing with a reputable business. Don’t wire money, because this type of transaction is typically impossible to reverse after the money is picked up, making it a favorite of scammers.
You can stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 scams on the FTC’s coronavirus advice page.
For the complete study visit https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/covid-19-stimulus-check-fraud-statistics/
Courtesy: The Ascent
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