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Scams rose 25% in Utah in 2020 because of COVID-19 pandemic

Local News

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah. (ABC4) — The COVID-19 pandemic is causing more Utahns to get scammed. The Better Business Bureau said they went up 25% from 2019 to 2020.

Almost 50,000 people were scammed in Utah in 2020.

Danielle Boyd, a Washington County resident is one of them.

She said a flashy website and too good to be true prices got her to bite on the scam.

“Yes I was scammed,” said Boyd. “It was Christmas time and I ordered these lights from a company called Viral Lights.”

Boyd said this was a learning experience for her.

“I was pissed and like my man was pissed because these were Christmas presents for the kids,” said Boyd.

Boyd was out almost $100 after ordering three sets of lights. She said she saw the ad on her Instagram.

“I was super excited to get them and then when this whole ordeal unfolded I was like oh my gosh this is terrible,” said Boyd.

Two weeks after ordering them Boyd said she was given a fake tracking number and that’s when she contacted the Better Business Bureau and filed a claim.

“If you make a big enough fuss sometimes, they’ll give it back to you, but most of the time your money is gone to the wind and you’ll never see it again,” said Better Business Bureau Utah Communications Director Britta Clark.

Boyd was one of the lucky ones to get her money back.

“When we see people getting their money back from scams it is once in a blue moon. It is a miracle quite frankly,” said Clark.

Frankly, scams happen all the time, but the Better Business Bureau said, like in Boyd’s situation, most scams happen online.

This year that was more the case as online scams made up 38.3% of all scams with employment scams trailing it with 7.1%.

“I think the fact that so many more people have spent so much more time online had to lead to a major increase in getting scammed,” said Clark.

The top products used for online scams are pets and pet products. It accounts for more than one-third of all online scams.

Of the 2020 risk report highlights, it said the median reported loss was $115 and 46.7% face the likelihood of losing money.

This is the first time since data was collected that 18 – 24-year-olds were the most susceptible to scams.

The BBB said to be wary of any companies you do not recognize and if you do pay for something online use a credit card. That is your best chance of getting your money back.

Viral Lights responded to ABC 4’s request for comment. The company’s response is below.

We’re a 19-person operation that’s been around for years. We don’t send fake tracking number and we never have. During the 2020 holiday season (November/December), we received an exponential increase in orders that caught us off guard and “swamped” our fulfillment operation, as well as our customer service team. 
Combined with the delays that all couriers were facing at the time, some customers may have been waiting up to 5-7 business days for the tracking status to initially update. 
We tried to make it as clear as possible that we were facing delays. This included emailing customers updates every 3-4 business days and providing clear shipping/processing information on the product page. 

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