The coronavirus pandemic made most of us homebodies offering free time for those out of work or working less.
Yet as the saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s playground and for some North Dakotans, they’ve been victims of COVID-19 related fraud.
“You pay and get nothing in return. That’s the ultimate goal,” Bao Vang of the Better Business Bureau for Minnesota and North Dakota said.
The Federal Trade Commission ranked North Dakota third among all 50 states for the median fraud loss due to COVID-19 and stimulus fraud.
North Dakotans were especially hit hard when buying items online.
According to the agency, people have purchased masks but the business never delivers and the seller ends up ghosting them.
Vermont and Idaho are the only two states ahead of North Dakota in the median fraud loss category.
Median means the middle value in a given set of numbers, in this case fraud losses.
For North Dakotans the median loss was $538. Nationwide it was $283 and in total Americans have loss $71 million.
The overall FTC reports of fraud in North Dakota are 82. However, those who’ve been scammed have lost a lot of money compared to other states.
“There are no COVID-19 cures, medicines. The FDA has not authorized any home test kits,” Assistant Attorney General Parrell Grossman said.
Grossman is the director of the consumer protection and antitrust division for the North Dakota Attorney General’s office.
He expressed concern with contact tracing scams.
Contact tracing is used when someone tests positive for the novel coronavirus. A health department official will call everyone that person came in contact with to warn them of the diagnosis.
“Contact tracers will never ask for money,” Grossman said.
The Better Business Bureau warns people to be smart when making purchases through the internet.
“Online shopping scams are only one ploy and that is to lure you in with some sort of catch, some sort of really enticing deal, or product, or claim,” Vang, the communications director for the BBB, said.
A few tips are to look at the website’s refund policy and its contact section.
Moreover, check the date on when the website was launched. If it just launched, you may want to avoid the site.
If you believe you’re the victim of any fraud, contact the North Dakota Attorney General’s consumer protection hotline at 1-800-472-2600.
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