This week is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s National Consumer Protection Week. The week is “designed to focus on the importance of keeping consumers informed while providing them with free resources explaining their rights in the marketplace.” This week offers information to keep consumers aware of potential scams and keep them protected with helpful prevention resources.
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has left people feeling alone, confused, and frustrated. The public health crisis has also exposed people to harmful scams that could be easily mistaken for legitimate operations like COVID-19 cures as well as options for available stimulus payments. According to AARP, “Coronavirus scams are spreading nearly as fast as the virus itself. As of March 2, 2021, the FTC has logged about 369,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments, 69 percent of them involving fraud or identity theft.”
Bogus cures for the virus
Scammers have been bombarding consumers with pitches for phony remedies that will cure the virus even before the vaccine rollout began. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says “consumers should be on the lookout for scams including requests to pay out-of-pocket for receiving a shot or to get on a vaccine waiting list, ads for vaccines in websites, social media posts, emails or phone calls, and marketers offering to sell or ship doses of COVID-19 vaccines.”
The FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have sent dozens of warnings to companies selling unapproved products they claim can cure or prevent COVID-19. There are scammers out there right now fraudulently advertising fake COVID-19 anti-body tests in hopes of harvesting personal information they can use for identity theft or health insurance scams.
Fake stimulus payments
The economic relief package passed by Congress in December 2020 was set to boost unemployment benefits by $300 a week and deliver $600 stimulus checks to millions of Americans in early 2021.
The first round of pandemic aid, under the CARES ACT, gave birth to schemes across the nation to steal these much-needed government payments. The Better Business Bureau reported incidents within days of the relief bill being signed. These schemes were promising people to get their relief money faster, but in reality, scammers were stealing identities.
Scammers lead these schemes and are out to make a profit or steal your identity. If you have a feeling you are being scammed, you are probably right.
If you or a loved one are a victim and need assistance, you can apply for free legal services by calling 1-800-733-8394 or by visiting our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.
For more resources, visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.
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