The novel coronavirus pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of American life. Unfortunately, online scams are no exception.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are trying to take advantage of fears surrounding the outbreak. In fact, coronavirus has created a parallel epidemic of scams that include everything from phony charities and fraudulent promises to fake cures and early stimulus payments.
According to Matthew Osborne of Matthew R. Osborne, PC, a top Colorado consumer law firm, the current climate is an ideal time for unscrupulous scam artists.
“Sadly, scammers like to prey on people during desperate times,” said Osborne. “The current pandemic has put countless people in a state of stress. People are worried about their health and their jobs. This creates a sense of desperation that makes it easier for scammers to engage potential targets with confusing tactics and false promises.”
In a recent report, the FTC identified a number of especially devious scams it has encountered during the coronavirus outbreak. These include:
Selling scams: Online sellers claiming they have in-demand products, such as household, cleaning, and medical supplies. When the target places an order, they pay their bill but never get a shipment.
Fake charities: When a major health event occurs, people look for ways to help. Scammers are using the outbreak to take advantage of people’s generosity. Many use names that sound like real charities. This is why it’s important to do research before donating to relief funds.
Fake texts, emails, and phishing: Scammers have been using fake texts and emails to trick people into sharing valuable personal information, including Social Security numbers, account numbers, login IDs, and passwords. They then use this information to steal the target’s money, identity, and sometimes both.
Mobile malware: Several unscrupulous entities have developed harmful apps centering on COVID-19. For instance, a malicious Android app dubbed CovidLock claimed to help people chart the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, hackers used the app to lock countless Android phones and hold them for ransom.
Since many of these acts are performed by foreign agents, it’s not always possible for people to get their money back. That said, according to Osborne, mysterious foreign scammers may not be the only ones trying to take advantage of the outbreak.
“It’s not uncommon for seemingly reputable, domestic companies to use an emergency to try to take advantage of people,” said Osborne. “Companies may refuse to pay bills or cancel pre-paid services without offering a refund. Insurance companies may try to get out of paying valid claims. Debt collection companies may try to convince people that they have to pay for things when they really don’t. During times of emergencies, it’s quite common to see an uptick in employment and credit fraud, along with identity theft. This current crisis is no different.”
To protect themselves, consumers should read over the FTC’s guidelines for avoiding coronavirus scams. If they believe that they have already fallen victim to a scam, or they think they are being treated unfairly by an employer or business, they should contact a reputable consumer attorney.
“When you’re dealing with unscrupulous entities who are trying to take advantage of a crisis, you need a knowledgeable ally,” said Osborne. “Our firm uses the substantial power of Colorado consumer protection law to help clients in matters related to employment, credit, fraud, and identity theft. We know the tactics used by mortgage, insurance, and debt collection companies. This expertise allows us to get to the bottom of a scam or unfair business practice and get results on behalf of our clients.”
About Matthew R. Osborne, PC
For more than a decade, Matthew R. Osborne, PC has helped Colorado consumers in cases related to wrongful insurance claim denials, identity theft, car dealership fraud, and more. Overseeing more than 300 successful settlements, our knowledgeable attorneys have litigated more than 50 consumer cases in trial, making us Denver’s premier consumer law-focused firm
The skilled team at Matthew R. Osborne has helped clients from Aurora to Northglenn, from Morrison to Parker and back again. We are the Mile-High City’s go-to source for expert legal representation and advice in consumer rights cases