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COVID-19

FTC Warns Of Boom In COVID-Related Scams

The Federal Trade Commission reports fraud is booming in the pandemic. Advocates for seniors say older Montanans are especially at risk.

AARP Montana Outreach Director Nancy Anderson says selling testing kits and spots in vaccination lines are just some of the scams fraudsters are tricking people with.

"Imposters figure out a way to be IRS agents or hurricane relief or flood relief — you know, they really do capitalize on any current crisis," she said.

The targets of these scams tend to be those in high risk groups for COVID such as the elderly, according to Anderson. Scammers can reach people more easily now that most are home and checking their phones and email constantly.

Chuck Harwood is the FTC director for the Northwest Region. During a FTC town hall this week, Hardwood noted the FTC has so far logged more than 400,000 fraud complaints across the country related to the pandemic or stimulus payments. Those scams add up to about $380 million.

There are a few signs people can watch for to avoid fraud, according to Montana Assistant Attorney General Chuck Munson. For one, scammers often play on emotions.

"Now it could be anxiety, it could be love or lust, it could be fear of missing out, it could be excitement," he said.

Munson noted that scammers also push a sense of urgency, encouraging people to take action immediately. He warned against trusting anyone requesting money or sensitive personal information.

Updates on current scams the AARP is tracking can be found at www.aarp.org/montanafraudwatch.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.