Addressing consumer fraud around the world. The Baker Fraud Report focuses on mass marketing fraud – where victims never meet the fraudster in person but communicate over the phone, though the mail, or on the internet.
People are totally freaked out by the virus, and it is reshaping lives and the future in often unpleasant ways. We know that there is a risk, but we also want to know just how big that risk is. We all want accurate scientific data, but despite a flood of information out there, it is difficult to find really reliable information that is not colored by politics. So here is one piece of information people may find useful.
How do we know if we’re making good progress against the virus? It turn out it is hard to find out. Several of the public metrics that are almost always used are less than useful.
New virus tests: Testing is expanding rapidly, and most of those tested turn out negative. But of course if you test more people you are going to find more that test positive. So it is hard to see trends from that data.
Total hospitalizations: This is also a common feature for graphs, but since those hospitalized may be there for a long period, they are a poor way to show trends.
Deaths: Again, those who die may be hospitalized for a long period. Thus even if the virus magically disappeared tomorrow there would still be deaths in the days to come.
New daily virus hospitalizations: In my view, this is a great indicator for trends. It shows those people that have the virus and are really sick, and it can readily be tracked over time. Unfortunately, many states don’t seem to report this rate, so I was only able to find it for New York City. But that is the hardest hit place in the U.S.
Tip of the week: Online shopping, counterfeits and fraud. With so many stores closed people are increasingly shopping online for common goods. But a large part of those are actually counterfeit. In fact, over half the goods sold on Amazon are by “third party sellers” that ship directly to victims and not from Amazon; usually from China. Huge numbers of complaints to the FTC and BBB are from people who shopped online, paid with a credit card, and never received anything at all. So make sure goods you receive are authentic, and call your credit card company and dispute the charge if they are counterfeit or never arrive. And see my BBB study on counterfeit goods fraud
Prediction:Bankruptcy! We are almost certainly coming up on a flood of individuals and businesses that can’t pay rent, mortgages, credit card bills, etc. So expect a large wave of people in financial distress. And the scammers will be out there to take advantage. Watch for scam debt collectors, mortgage, student loan and credit card debt and other financial relief frauds.
Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never in response to a call, text, or email.
The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media with information about your stimulus payment, or to ask you for your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number. Anyone who does is a scammer phishing for your information.
You don’t have to pay to get your stimulus money.
The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.
Please send us press releases! The Fraud Report wants to keep everyone up to date on fraud issues. The media attention now is all about virus issues, so they may not report arrests or prosecutions. Send them along and we’ll include them here.
Tip of the week: Counterfeit goods. With so many people shopping online right now there is an increasing danger of buying goods that are counterfeit, including of course things like masks and cleansers. Be extra careful with third party sellers on Amazon. Check out 1 star reviews, where people often report that goods are not what they claim to be. And call to get a full refund on your credit card if you’re ripped off. Here is the BBB study on counterfeits.
Scam email by a BEC scammer A contact just got an email he thought came from a friend. It reads: Thank you XXX. I should have called you to explain further but still can’t access my mobile phone. I need you to kindly purchase 5pcs x $100 of either eBay or Target or Amazon gift cards which totals $500 as donation for the purchase of preventive items from Corona Disease (COVID 19) due to the vulnerability of Veterans at Hospice & Palliative Care .I will be liable for reimbursement. You can purchase them online as (e-gift card) or at any Kohl’s, CVS, Kwik, Macy’s, Walmart, or Walgreen’s Store. Due to the time frame of the pledge, I will be glad if you get them early enough today. E-mail me immediately you buy them for instructions how to get them across. Let me know if a check will be fine for reimbursement. Thank you. Coronavirus
Tip of the week: Scams continue and will go after big money from the government There is no reason at all to think that scams are down right now; in fact I suspect they are up with so many people at home. The courts have limited their schedules, so there may be fewer prosecutions, and the news media is currently covering very little that is not virus related. But if anything scammers are surely redoubling their efforts. After previous disasters I’ve seen price gouging, bogus charities, and other scams during and immediately after they happen, but the really big losses come later with crooked/incompetent contractors or people inappropriately getting insurance or government benefits. For example, we saw Nigerian scammers defrauding FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston. So get ready to deal with scammers looking for money from stimulus checks, business loans, and other assistance. There lie the big bucks.
As you’d imagine, scams or warning about possible scams related to virus issues have just exploded. It is often hard to tell how many of these are wide- spread and organized fraud efforts. But complaints to BBB and law enforcement have gone up significantly, and patterns are emerging. Scammers are continuing unabated. Obviously this is a priority area right now for enforcers and other fraud fighters.
Because so many alerts and press reports right now are of doubtful assistance it would not be useful to have all of these included in the Fraud Report. So I’ll try to include the most important and relevant news from around the world.