Consumer complaints and scam reports to the Federal Trade Commission related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) have surged in recent weeks.
Since the beginning of the year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received more than 7,800 coronavirus-related reports from consumers, double what they were about a week ago.
The top categories of coronavirus-related fraud complaints include travel and vacation related reports about cancellations and refunds, reports about problems with online shopping, mobile texting scams, and government and business imposter scams.
In fraud complaints that mentioned the coronavirus, consumers reported losing a total of $4.77 million, with a reported median loss of $598.
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons issued a statement on the agency’s continuing efforts to protect consumers.
The FTC’s staff is working hard with other enforcement authorities and stakeholders to stop scammers and other unfair and deceptive business practices during the pandemic, Chairman Simons stated.
“We will not tolerate businesses seeking to take advantage of consumers’ concerns and fears regarding coronavirus disease, exigent circumstances, or financial distress,” Simons said.
Simons noted that the FTC will remain flexible and reasonable in enforcing compliance requirements on companies that may hinder the provision of important goods and services to consumers, and will consider good faith efforts to provide needed goods and services in making enforcement decisions.
“The FTC is ready to assist businesses that may seek guidance about compliance obligations on consumer protection issues during this unprecedented time,” Simons said.
The FTC urges those who have encountered any type of fraud—including fraud related to the ongoing coronavirus crisis—to report it via FTC.gov/complaint.