The Top Scams of 2020: How to Identify & Report Them
In 2019, there were 3.2 million reports of fraud and scams in the United States alone totaling more than $667 million in losses. Most people said that they were contacted via phone and had a median loss of $1,000. In fact, a data collection for 2019 shows that Millennials are 25% more susceptible to scams than other age groups.
Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to fight back. The first is to know how to identify a scam. The second is to report it. The third is to help educate others on the different types of scams and how to avoid them.
So, now that you know the steps to take, let's break it down a little more by looking at some of the top scams that have already been big this year.
Tech Support Scams
One of the most popular scams to date is the Tech Support scam. This is where a scammer contacts you via cold-calling or you visit a website and a virus places a pop-up on your screen. The pop-up says your computer has an issue and to call a number for technical support.
When you contact the scammer, they ask for remote access to your computer and pretend to scan for viruses. After they throw some technical jargon around, they offer to fix your computer for a fee. This fee can be any amount of money and usually request that you provide payment via gift cards or electronic currency such as Bitcoin.
If someone calls you about viruses on your computer, hang-up and block the number. If you get a pop-up, run a virus scan on your computer to see if it can quarantine or remove the virus. If your virus software is not successful in combating the virus, you will need to take your computer to a local repair shop for assistance.
As always, you can report any Tech Support Scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at http://ftc.gov/complaint.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams
Taking advantage of the global pandemic, scammers are using robocall and texting to reach out to millions of people offering free testing kits and promoting “cures” such as CBD oil, essential oils, or colloidal silver.
First, as of the publishing of this article, there is only one at-home testing kit approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) with LabCorp being the sole distributor. (However, it's important to note that they've given health care workers and first responders priority access.) Currently, the test costs $119 and is done by swabbing the inside of the nose to collect a fluid sample, then mailing the test back to LabCorp for processing.
Second, there is currently no cure for COVID-19, but there are several prescription drugs approved by the FDA for physicians to administer to patients. There are also several vaccines going through trails.
If you’ve been contacted by a scammer offering testing kits or drugs to treat COVID-19, you can report them to the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
IRS Impostor Scam
This scam occurs when someone contacts you (usually via phone) and says that you owe back taxes. These people claim to work for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and will throw around fake badge and case file numbers to try to convince you that they’re legit employees for the government. Sometimes, they will also threaten jail time if you do not pay whatever sum of money they say you owe.
The main thing to remember is that the IRS doesn’t contact anyone via phone, email or social media to inform you that you owe back taxes. If you do owe taxes, the IRS will send an official letter or notice in the mail, or will send someone in person to notify you.
If you are ever unsure that someone is an employee for the IRS, hang up the phone and call the IRS directly.
- For Individuals: 1-800-829-1040
- For Businesses: 1-800-829-4933
You can report IRS scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by calling 1-800-366-4484.
Romance scams usually start by someone contacting you via social media or a dating app. The individual shows a romantic interest in you, gets you to gain their trust (even fall in love with them), and then uses the emotional attachment to drain your money.
The scammer may fake an illness, an injury, or say that a family member of theirs is hurt and that they need money for hospital bills or medicine.
It's best to not give away any of your hard earned money unless you’ve met the individual in person, have verified who they are, and have confirmed that a tragedy or incident has actually happened.
If you think you’ve been contacted by a Romance Scammer, you can report it to the FTC at http://ftc.gov/complaint.
The most important way to stop yourself from being scammed is make sure that you’re familiar with the many types of scams currently out there. A quick web search will offer many resources to read and educate yourself on this topic. Also, you can visit the FTC’s website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/ for more information on scams and fraud.
Lastly, be sure to share what you’ve learned with family and friends.
- Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, “The top frauds of 2019”, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/01/top-frauds-2019, Accessed 5/3/20
- Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, “Millennials and fraud: What’s the story?”, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/10/millennials-and-fraud-whats-story, Accessed 5/3/20
- Internal Revenue Service, “Let Us Help You”, https://www.irs.gov/help/telephone-assistance, Accessed 5/3/20
- Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, “What You Need to Know About Romance Scams”, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/what-you-need-know-about-romance-scams#lies, Accessed 5/3/20
- Food & Drug Administration, “NeuroXPF”, https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/warning-letters/neuroxpf-606236-03312020, Accessed 5/3/20
- Food & Drug Administration, “Fraudulent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Products”, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/health-fraud-scams/fraudulent-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-products, Accessed 5/3/20
- The Verge, “First at-home COVID-19 testing kit authorized by the FDA”, https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/21/21229273/home-coronavirus-test-labcorp-fda-ppe-swab-pixel-health-care, Accessed 5/3/20
- Food & Drug Administration, “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Test for Patient At-Home Sample Collection”, https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-first-test-patient-home-sample-collection, Accessed 5/3/20
- Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, “How to Spot, Avoid and Report Tech Support Scams”, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams, Accessed 5/3/20
© 2020 Cleo Addams