Americans tricked out of more than $586 million in COVID-related scams

From the start of October 2020 through Oct. 14, 2021, Americans filed more than 269,000 fraud complaints related to coronavirus, according to the most recent data from the Federal Trade Commission. (Dreamstime/TNS)
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Jessica Schladebeck New York Daily News (TNS)

Scammers have bilked American consumers out of more than $586 million through fraud schemes inspired by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

From the start of October 2020 through Oct. 14, 2021, Americans filed more than 269,000 fraud complaints related to coronavirus, according to the most recent data from the Federal Trade Commission. The daily average number of reports peaked at 2,100 in April, amid a national vaccination rollout and around the same time the federal government was issuing $1,400 stimulus checks.

Many victims, most of them older in age, were fooled by “opportunistic websites,” often times peddling in-demand items like hand sanitizer, gloves and even puppies, according to the FTC. Shoppers would place an order, but would never receive the items purchased.

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Price-gouging also proved to be a major issue during the health crisis. It was the most commonly reported pandemic-related scheme in 2020, according to state and local consumer agencies polled by the Consumer Federation of America.

On average, the typical victim — as measured by the median — lost $392 in the schemes, CNBC reported. Americans over 80 were particularly hard hit, with their losses averaging about $1,000 each.

In response, the Federal Trade Commission has issued tips on how to avoid such scams, which often target online shoppers, travelers and internet-users.

To avoid fraud, Americans should take steps including blocking unwanted calls and filtering unwanted text messages. The agency also advised against giving out personal or financial information in response to an unexpected or unsolicited request.

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