SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — U.S. citizens have reported more than 193,000 cases of COVID-19-related fraud and lost more than $134 million since the first round of stimulus checks were released.
“It’s important to note how convincing these scammers can be,” Certified Financial Planner at The Ascent Matt Frankel said. “It’s really easy to become a victim if you don’t know what you’re looking for.”
Nationwide, there have been 11,178 reported cases of fraud where the person was contacted by phone.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher for these criminals to use phishing scams, for example, over the internet,” Frankel said. “But phone is still a very effective method. That’s the biggest method we’re seeing. Website fraud and email fraud are a close second and third.”
Those between the ages of 30 and 39 reported the highest number of fraud attempts in the United States. But those ages 50 to 59 had the largest losses with over $13.1 million.
“The most effective way to prevent this is to understand what agencies will not do. The IRS, for example, will never initiate contact through email,” Frankel said. “The IRS almost always mails a letter first. The IRS will never text you ”
“If they get a call that’s supposedly from the IRS, hang up and call the IRS back. You can look up their number on IRS.gov,” he added.
Frankel says reports of fraud have trended down since May, but we could see a spike with another stimulus package on the horizon.
Credit cards were the most common payment method used by victims of COVID-19 scams. But wire transfers resulted in the biggest losses, Frankel says, because there are far fewer protections.
“Most of these scammers will request a specific payment method,” he said. “Say, they might need to take a debit card number. The IRS will never request a specific payment method. Nor will any other government agency.”