Over 150,000 COVID-related fraud reports submitted to the US Government YTD
According to data analyzed by the Atlas VPN research team, Americans reported 152,129 coronavirus-related fraud cases since the start of the year. These reports reveal that citizens lost more than $97.39 million to COVID-19 and stimulus check scams.
Online shopping scams are the most common, with over 23,296 cases as of August 3rd, 2020. Internet shopping scams swindled an excess of $13.73 million from unsuspecting victims.
Cybercriminals are building scam websites to trick people into purchasing supplements, masks, and sometimes even vaccines that are not approved by the FDA.
Travel and vacation scams account for even bigger losses, totaling $33.45 million since the start of the year. As stated on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, US citizens reported 17,659 travel and vacation complaints. It turns out that hotels and flight companies are not in a hurry to issue refunds to customers, which is the main contributing factor to these reports.
On average, consumers reported 707 fraud cases per day, counting from January 1st, 2020 to August 2nd, 2020. The FTC received most complaints on April 15th, 2020, totaling over 1,922 coronavirus-related scam reports.
Most reports were from people ages 30-39, they contacted FTC over 5,902 times since the start of the year. The 30-39 age group experienced monetary damages of $8.8 million.
However, even though the age group of 40-49 had fewer reports-5,300, they lost the most money-$12 million.
Finally, people ages 80 and over were scammed the least-only 536 reports from them. On the other hand, if older people got scammed, their average losses were more significant, with around $551 loss per complaint. All younger citizens lost $200 or less per case.
These numbers of complaints and monetary damages are only the tip of the iceberg, as many people do not report scams.
Most reports came from Californians
By far, most reports came from the bear flag state - California. Citizens in California reported 15,501 COVID-19 scams since the start of the ear.
Next comes Florida, with 10,228 complaints. Texas has around 7 million more citizens than Florida, but there are more COVID-19 cases in the bear flag state, which might be the reason why fraudsters are targeting Florida more often.
As stated on the FTC website, Texas is third in terms of coronavirus-related scam reports by state, with 9,304 cases as of August 3rd, 2020. Similarly, 9,139 complaints came from the state of New York.
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington filed over 5,000 reports each.
In contrast, the least complaints came from North and South Dakota, with 125 and 138 reports, respectively. Vermont, Alaska, and Wyoming also had less than 200 complaints each.
Tips to protect yourself from scams
Cybercriminals are seeing the pandemic as an opportunity to take advantage of panicking citizens. The Atlas VPN team wants to share three main tips to avoid the most common coronavirus-related scams:
Do not respond to texts, emails, or calls about checks from the government.
Citizens should use the irs.gov/coronavirus website to provide information to the IRS. The IRS will never contact you by email, phone, or text regarding the stimulus payment. If someone contacts you and asks for your Social Security number or any other sensitive information, you can be sure that a fraudster is trying to steal it.
Do not buy vaccinations or home testing kits.
There are loads of websites pretending to sell COVID-19 cures or brand new supplements that are not approved by the FDA. In our previous coronavirus-related scam analysis, we found that scammers created over 316,523coronavirus-themed websites, counting from March 9th, 2020 to March 23rd, 2020.
Do not open emails from untrusted sources.
These emails either contain a malicious attachment or a link to a website. It did not take long for cybercriminals to create fake sites pretending to be the World Health Organisation (WHO), or other authoritative sources. Scam websites can install malware that can steal information from the victim’s PC.
Instead, people should use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest COVID-19 information.
Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.