More than 200,000 Americans have lost $145 million linked to the COVID-19 pandemic since the start of the year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on Tuesday (Sept. 22).
The median loss was $300, but it was more than twice that amount, $665, for victims 80 years of age or older. At 7,628, the FTC found that the greatest number of complaints came from people aged 30-39, who lost a total of $13 million with a median loss of $209. At $16.2 million, the group that lost the most amount of money overall was between the age of 50 and 59, filing 6,329 claims for a median loss of $209.
Fraud has soared during the coronavirus, spurred by the massive shift to digital that has left doors open for scammers. In addition, many people were banking online for the first time, and may have been unaware of the warning signs for fraud.
“We all need to be on our guard. Before you click, pause first. Do your research and ask yourself if that website, email, text, direct message or call is legit. Be wary of handing over your money or personal information,” Baker advised.
Most victims, 26 million, lost their money on a website, 20 million fell prey to an email scam and another 13 million were duped when the consumer initiated the contact, the FTC reported.
The top fraud categories were online shopping, where nearly $44 million was lost, and travel and vacation scams, which totaled $24 million.
In August, SocialCatfish.com, the identity verification nonprofit, reported that U.S. losses from COVID-19 fraud and ID theft have reached nearly $100 million since the pandemic emerged in March.
The report by the California-based agency, whose mission is to prevent consumers from being defrauded online by learning the identity of individuals or organizations, put a spotlight on the depth of what it called a fast-growing criminal enterprise that includes everything from phony stimulus check offers to shopping scams and fake COVID-19 cures.