The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported in a press release that it has received over 7,800 complaints from consumers all relating to the coronavirus pandemic, twice the number it received just a week ago.
Complaints are stemming from travel and vacation cancellations as well as online shopping issues and government imposter scams. Coronavirus-related complaints have hit $4.77 million, with an average loss of nearly $600.
The FTC will regularly make the number of coronavirus-related complaints public on its Explore Data page. Information will detail the types of coronavirus-related scams reported and what people can do to avoid falling victim.
“The FTC urges those who have encountered any type of fraud — including fraud related to the ongoing coronavirus crisis — to report it via FTC.gov/complaint,” the FTC said.
California reported the most complaints from Jan. 1 to March 30, with 986 complaints; followed by Florida with 508; Texas with 490; New York with 470; and New Jersey with 247.
Fraud-related complaints were 4,544; do not call, 702; identity theft, 375; and other, 2,286.
Travel and vacation-related complaints under the fraud category totaled 1,285 worth $2.23 million. Online shopping complaints totaled 784 complaints worth $791,000. There were also 718 complaints related to text message scams worth $12,000. Scams related to government imposters were 209 valued at 128,000.
Earlier this month, the FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to businesses allegedly selling unproven products to treat the coronavirus. The companies include Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy, N-ergetics, GuruNanda, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy and The Jim Bakker Show.
There are presently no vaccines, drugs, or investigational products that treat or prevent the coronavirus.
“There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “What we don’t need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We’re prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam.”
Consumers have stepped up their activity in eCommerce, as they are not staying in hotels, eating in restaurant dining rooms or using public transit.