#SCAM ALERT | Avoid THESE #Covid #CoronaVirus SCAMS!

SCAM ALERT!

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Website SocialCatfish.com today released a study on Coronavirus Scams by State and How to Avoid Them based on data from the FTC, FBI and IRS through July.

The top five states are California (10,938 complaints, up 110% since March), Florida (7,244 complaints, up 124%), New York (6,677 complaints up 134%), Texas (6,427 complaints up 122%) and Pennsylvania (4,245 complaints, up 201%). North Dakota has the fewest with 96 complaints up 182%.

Nationally, the FTC has registered 144,727 reports of fraud costing victims $93 million -- a median loss of $263 per person.

Online shopping ranks No. 1 for most complaints nationally racking up 22,124 reports and the government reported a barrage of activity around stimulus checks.

With online shopping surging, and a second round of stimulus checks coming soon, below are the most common scams for each.

Here are 4 common online shopping scams to avoid during Coronavirus:

1. THE PRICE GOUGING SCAM: Some retailers are marking up essential items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer at abhorrent levels. This is particularly egregious with record unemployment as people simply cannot afford to pay $30 for toilet paper. Price gouging law varies by state but on average it is illegal to mark a product up 10% or more during a declared emergency. Amazon has had to remove half a million items for sale on its website due to price gouging and has suspended 6,000 accounts.

How to Avoid: If you suspect you are a victim of price gouging, report it to the Department of Justice. Currently, the market is stocked back up at normal prices for essential items and it is a good idea to plan ahead for a second or third wave.

2. THE UNDELIVERED GOODS SCAM: There are thousands of websites offering essential products including masks and gloves that simply take your payment and financial information, never send you the product and have your information for future scams.

How to Avoid: Purchase products from big companies that you trust. If it is a smaller company, do research by googling them to see reviews and if any complaints have been filed.

3. Shipping Time-Limit: Because of this scam, sellers are obliged by law to either give you an estimated shipping date or to ship your products out to you within 30 days. There is an exception for customers who opened a credit card account in order to purchase a product, which gives sellers a 50-day window to ship your product. If there is a delay in the expected shipping date, the company you purchased the product from must notify you.

4. FREE GROCERIES SCAM: Scammers text their victims telling them that they just won free groceries from Costco at a $130 value. All the customers need to do is give scammers their personal information, and they will supposedly get free Costco groceries at their doorstep.

How to Avoid: There are currently no national grocery chain offering free groceries. Do not give your personal information.

Here are 4 common stimulus check scams to avoid as the second stimulus approaches:

1) ROBOCALL CHECK SCAMS: The scammer will call pretending to be the IRS and ask for your personal financial information. They will claim they need this to deposit the stimulus check into your account and will also ask for a fee to deposit said check. In reality, they want your information so that they can pretend to be you, claim the check for themselves. They can also drain your bank account of your funds with this information and will keep the fee for themselves with no check, in return.

How to Avoid: Do not give out any personal information. The government already has your information on file from when you filed your taxes. The stimulus check will either be automatically deposited into your account or you will get it mailed to your house.

2) EMAIL AND TEXT SCAMS: Scammers will pretend to be the IRS or federal government by emailing or texting you a link to click to receive your check. If you click on the link your electronic device will get plagued with malware and your information gets stolen.

How to Avoid: Do not click on any links that are emailed or texted to you. Again, the government already has your information and checks are either directly deposited or mailed.

3) IDENTITY THEFT SCAMS: If you have not received your stimulus check yet and the official IRS website says otherwise, it could be possible that you are a victim of identity theft. This means that a scammer has found a way to steal your information, like your SSN, and has claimed your stimulus check for themselves.

How to Avoid: If you believe to have been a victim of this kind of fraud, you can report it here.

4) GOOGLE SEARCH SCAM: Scammers have created copies of the official IRS “Get My Payment” site and have updated their search engine terms so that people conducting google searches for information find these fake sites. Once a person finds their site, they think it is the official IRS website and will enter their information.

How to Avoid: Do not go on any website to get your stimulus check unless it is an official .gov or .ca site and beware of being redirected to a website from a non-reputable news source.

If you encounter a coronavirus scam, contact local law enforcement or file a complaint with the FTC.

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