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Consumer Confidential: An 'unprecedented proliferation' of coronavirus scams is sweeping the nation

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

There you are, sitting at home near the phone or in front of your computer, working remotely or just trying to stave off boredom amid the pandemic.

That makes you typical of many if not most Americans.

It also makes you a sitting duck.

Just ask Phil Moore. The 73-year-old told me the other day that he's now getting about 10 scam calls a week, typically using a "spoofed" phone number designed to trick his caller ID system.

"It just blows me away that the government hasn't done a thing about it," Moore said with barely contained anger.

In fact, government officials are well aware that not only are scam calls on the rise as a result of so many of us being stuck at home, but there's been a steady increase in rackets involving the coronavirus and COVID-19.

 

The Federal Trade Commission told lawmakers on Capitol Hill recently that it has received more than 131,000 complaints to date relating to the pandemic.

Among issues raised by consumers, the agency said, are complaints involving "unsubstantiated health claims, robocalls, privacy and data security concerns, sham charities, online shopping fraud, phishing scams, work at home scams, credit scams, and fake mortgage and student loan relief schemes."

Not least among these concerns, the FTC said, is the rise of "government impostors attempting to scam consumers out of their stimulus checks."

"It is often the case that, following reports of a health scare, deceptive advertising or marketing touting 'miracle cures' quickly emerge," Andrew Smith, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, testified at a U.S. Senate hearing.

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