by Laszlo Bartus
Fraud thrives in the worsening economic climate caused by the pandemic, and fraudsters take advantage of people’s vulnerability, hopelessness and credulity. Most people are uninformed and easy to fall victim to, and they don’t even know that law enforcement agencies, experts, nonprofits are working to uncover fraud and catch fraudsters. Primarily, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Protecting America’s Consumer organization, whose website contains a number of important information and assistance to those who have fallen victim to fraudsters (ftc.gov). The victims are not vulnerable, a complaint can be made on the FTC side.
Frauds during COVID-19 tend to focus on what people have lost or need. The types of scams are very varied, but they primarily promise work for money paid, but offer nothing in return. Organized criminal groups create fake websites that look like a job broker and ask for a membership fee. However, they do not provide anything for the payments. A correspondence version of this, that they send a letter, sms, or email promising work at home, is also made after the money is paid, but disappears with the money, but no work is given.
A typical scam associated with the pandemic is that the supplies needed to protect against the virus are advertised at lower prices (masks, hand sanitizers, etc.), but the goods never arrive. The tracking number does not work because they provide false numbers to track goods that have never been shipped. One typical form of pandemic fraud is to offer a variety of organic dietary supplements that provide protection against the coronavirus. In addition to work, some offer money, advertising non-existent state aid programs. One common form of fraud is that money is promised to help you get a state „stimulus check”: if you pay, you get a „Trump check.”
Many don’t know that Trump rejected the second “stimulus check,” which would have helped families earning under $ 75,000 a year, $ 1,200 per head and $ 500 per child. It is for sure, there won’t be another “stimulus check” before the election, but there are those who promise to get the check if they pay a lower amount. Of course, no one has the opportunity to do that, it is a scam. Phishing scammers have adapted to the new situation created by the pandemic and are extracting data and information from people in exchange for promising a service to reduce the effects of the virus.
“The good news is that you can report these cases and ask for help,” Maricela Segura, the regional director of the Los Angeles-based Western Region of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), said in a telephone press conference. Maricela Segura encouraged everyone who had been the victim of fraud or someone just tried to mislead a person, to make a report on the FTC website at this link. There are different categories of scams on the FTC’s Complaints page, so the person can contact those who deal with that type of fraud directly. Maricela Segura said they work closely with law enforcement, the police and occasionally the FBI. Monica Vaca Associate Director has convincingly detailed the practical side of this, and Nick Akers, of the California State Department of Justice, has reported fraud-related violations. Fraudsters face severe penalties.
In addition to online, job-promising, education and scholarship fraud, credit card fraud and debt consolidation fraudulent offers are separate categories. Due to the pandemic, many have lost their jobs, been forced to use credit cards and have become critically indebted in recent months. Today, their main problem is that all their money is taken away by the monthly fees paid on credit cards. The fraudsters promise to arrange with the banks to forgive a significant portion of the debts, and in the meantime the debtor will pay a lower monthly fee to them rather than to the banks. Until he realizes he has been deceived, he pays the fraudster and his debt only grows to the banks.
Another scam is to act as a debtor, as if someone has not paid something and threatens to recover from him a debt that doesn’t really exist. There is a lot of abuse in obtaining immigration statuses, fraudsters promise a green card, employee visa, social security card and a valid ID, but after collecting the money, they don’t offer anything because they don’t even have the opportunity to do so. Experts have drawn attention to the fact that everyone should only turn to licenced clerks and not give money to anyone who does not have the right licenses. During the epidemic, it is common abuse that tenants who lose their jobs cannot pay and the landlord threatens to take them to the streets with immediate effect or notify the immigration office. However, they have no right to do so, so everyone should turn for help if the landlord threatens.
Overall, professionals call attention to make everyone much more careful. Because of your difficult situation, do not fall victim to fraudsters, because then your situation will not get better, but worse. Before using any services, check with your service provider. Only buy from reputable and guaranteed companies. Don’t believe that anyone can give you much cheaper than legal big companies. If someone does fall victim to fraudsters, make a report on the FTC’s website because your complaint will be investigated and the perpetrators will be caught very often. So you can hope to get back some of the money you lost. Eternal advice: don’t be too “hungry” and don’t believe the rabbit in front of our mouths won’t run away.