Coronavirus consumer complaints surge, says FTC

Millions of dollars lost to coronavirus fraudsters, officials say

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Consumer complaints related to the coronavirus have surged recently, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC received 8,433 complaints related to the virus pandemic between January and March, according to commission data. Nearly half of the complaints included a loss, and overall reported losses topped $5.8 million. The median fraud loss was $599.

The number of complaints has ramped up as the pandemic has spread more widely. There were more than 203,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States as of Wednesday, up from 100,000 cases Friday. Officials said half the number of complaints to the FTC had approximately doubled during the past week.

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The most common type of coronavirus-related complaint was about travel and vacation services, although they were mainly about cancellations and refunds rather than fraud, according to the FTC. Consumers reported more than $2.4 million in losses related to travel.

Many Americans have had to cancel travel plans due to the pandemic. And while many airlines have offered credit toward future flights or waived fees to reschedule, they have been less willing to hand out refunds. A group of senators has called on airline CEOs to provide refunds after the industry received billions in the government’s coronavirus stimulus package.

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Close up of woman's hands with smartphone and unknown incoming phone call on it, fraud or scam schemes

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Other common complaints included fraud related to online shopping, text messages, impostors claiming to work for the government and impostors claiming to work for a business.

The FBI has warned Americans to be wary of scammers seeking to take their coronavirus relief check money. Authorities have also warned of scams like fake CDC emails containing malware and fraudsters peddling phony COVID-19 cures.

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