Coronavirus scam consumer complaints soar, costing consumers $5M, FTC says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Complaints of COVID-19 schemes are skyrocketing. The Federal Trade Commission released numbers showing that so far, almost $5 million has been lost to coronavirus scams.

The ABC 7 I-Team talked to the FTC about what people should look for and what they should do if they feel they've run into a ruse.

"People are understandably afraid and it can cause them to do things they wouldn't otherwise do," said Emma Fletcher with the FTC's Consumer Response and Operations Division.

That's a big reason why more than 7,800 consumer complaints of COVID-19-related scams, have been reported to the FTC since the beginning of the year.

"About half of those reports came in in just the last week so the numbers are really accelerating," Fletcher said.

The FTC said people need to do their homework if ordering from a website they've never used before.

"One of the biggest the complaints we get is about shopping online, people ordering products that they never receive being sold on sites that pop up out of nowhere to take advantage of the situation and then of course also sites selling phony products, cures, treatments," Fletcher explained.

According to the agency's data, Illinois ranks 7th in the U.S. for these types of complaints.

Some of the scams include robocalls about bogus virus treatments, and fake vaccinations and phishing schemes about the virus, luring you into giving personal information.

Their advice to consumers is to do some homework before being tempted into buying products from unfamiliar sites.

"If they must order from a site they haven't used before defiantly use a credit card as a protection to dispute the charge in case it doesn't turn out," advised Fletcher.

When buying anything online you should stick to websites you know and trust. Put items on a credit card so you can dispute the charge if needed.

You should report COVID-19 scams to the Federal Trade Commission you can do that by going to their website ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
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