Published: October 13, 2020 on our newsletter Security Fraud News & Alerts Newsletter.
Since the start of this year, U.S. citizens have paid a $150 million price tag for coronavirus-themed pandemic scams. Security experts say that number is likely to grow as there are currently no signs of relief on the horizon. Data analysis by Atlas VPN examines the numbers and demographics behind the victims of fraudulent schemes during this tragic and historic time.
A Look at Reported Cases
Since the start of this year, the FTC has received over 218,000 complaints about cases involving coronavirus-related fraud, many of them for items that are paid for but never arrive. Promoting products like masks and other PPE, including the sale of fake cures, vaccines and supplements, and government stimulus check fraud are all fair game for hackers. The FTC also reports receiving an average of 707 complaints per day from January 1st to August 2nd of this year.
As of early August, online shopping scams were most common, with 23,482 cases reported so far. The price tag for that category of online fraud cost Americans $13.8 million. But even more costly, the FTC received 17,659 complaints since January about travel and vacation scams totaling the loss of $33.71 million to date.
Since the new year, the most complaints to the FTC about coronavirus scams by state found California in the lead with 15,501. Following in second is Florida with 10,228, then Texas with 9,304 and New York with 9,139 complaints. On the opposite end, North and South Dakota had 125 and 138 complaints respectively.
The most complaints of fraud were filed by those aged 30-39, whose scam losses totaled $8.8 million. Those in the 40-49 demographic had fewer complaints but lost the most money – $12 million. Surprisingly, those over the age of 80 were scammed the least with only 536 reports. Overall, scam losses for older Americans totaled $551 for each complaint, while younger citizens lost $200 or less per case.
Avoid the Most Common Coronavirus Scams
Any communication about government checks, especially those regarding stimulus relief, should never be responded to or discussed in texts, emails, or phone calls. The IRS sends letters to stimulus recipients, and the official IRS website is also safe to use. If anyone asks for information like a Social Security number or other sensitive data, you can assume they have bad intent in mind.
Atlas VPN found over 316,523 coronavirus-themed websites created in just fourteen days, from March 9 to March 23. So, it’s “Buyer Beware” for anything claiming to be what it’s not, like cures, vaccines, and home testing kits.
Acting on emails from unknown and untrusted senders can open a world of regret for victims who respond. Phishing emails use emotions, fears, and threats about coronavirus that are designed to get a response. Never open any attachments or follow links in an email, regardless of who sent the message as they can lead to bogus websites and download data-stealing malware onto a device.
The pandemic is likely to stick around for a while. Be sure to keep an eye out for scams using it as a lure for all types of attacks.
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