Consumer scams on the rise during COVID-19


SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – There has been a huge spike in scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Trade Commission has recorded more than $74-million in consumer losses.

A family member of one of our ABC4 employees was targeted. She found out she was a victim of fraud while our cameras were rolling.

“Thank you for calling Charles Schwab, how can I help you today?” asked the representative.

“Hi, my name is Angie Witzel and I was calling to report that I’ve received a fraudulent letter,” Witzel replied.

“I can definitely look into that,” the Charles Schwab representative told Witzel.

Witzel received a letter in the mail from someone claiming to be from Charles Schwab.

“It gave me my personal ID number and it told me to call a certain number,” Witzel told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.

The number on the letter turned out to be a valid contact number for Charles Schwabb, but Witzel still knew something was off.

The letter had someone else’s email address, and Witzel said neither she or her husband have ever opened a Charles Schwabb account.

“It just screamed to me that this wasn’t real.”

While she was on the phone with Charles Schwabb, we were able to confirm that someone setup an account in her name.

“It looks like there was an account and it was already closed because of fraudulent activity. It was already picked up on the radar,” said the representative.

“It’s so scary, right? That my name and social security number, potentially, is out there,” said Witzel.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the United States, scammers are seizing the opportunity to prey on consumers, according to the Better Business Bureau.

“I think that the scammers do it because they too need the money in order to continue their lavish lifestyle,” said Jane Rupp, President, and CEO of the Better Business Bureau. “And people aren’t as concentrated on their banking and that kind of thing. They’re more all consumed about the virus.”

“I can’t imagine the type of person that would do something like this to other people, at this time or any time, but especially right now when families are hurting and people are hurting,” Witzel said.

Witzel hopes sharing her story will make others aware of these potential dangers.

Click here to read Charles Schwabb’s tips on how to protect yourself against phishing.

Click here to report scams to the Better Business Bureau.

Consumer tips from the Better Business Bureau:

Think twice before you click. If you receive a letter, unsolicited text or email from someone you don’t know asking you to click on a link, don’t do it. In a reported recent scam, consumers received SMS messages saying a mandatory online coronavirus test was necessary, one they could complete by clicking a link. Scammers are using links and attachments like these that will download malware onto your electronic devices and steal personal information.
Do your homework. Even if a letter, call, or message seems to come from an official source, research it before handing over sensitive information, such as your name, address, or banking information. Scammers often try to earn consumers’ trust by impersonating reputable, official institutions. Look up the website of the business using a trusted source.
Don’t accept calls from strangers. Con artists may call your home claiming to work for the government or healthcare system. Remember, neither the government nor any healthcare-related agencies make unsolicited calls to individuals.

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