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COVID -19 BRINGS OUT THE BEST – AND THE WORST — IN PEOPLE: WATCH OUT FOR THESE CORONA HUSTLERS

July 30, 2020 by in Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastating loss and suffering worldwide, ushering in a period of frightening uncertainty affecting all facets of everyday life.  During these difficult times, scammers have devised new ways to defraud American consumers — preying on the public’s fear and desperation.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”), COVID-19-related scams have caused Americans an estimated $93 million to date.[1]  The various schemes include:

  • selling products using fake claims of medicinal or preventive properties and using bogus data;[2]
  • posing as the government or a bank to obtain bank information, promising to provide individuals with their stimulus checks or small businesses with their Paycheck Protection Program funds;[3]
  • impersonating utility companies and threatening to shut off vital utilities if payment is not received;[4] and
  • offering a “mask exemption card,” claiming to be authorized by the US Department of Justice.[5]

The Corona hustlers use a variety of methods to deceive and reel in their victims, including direct phone calls, text messages, or email phishing scams. 

To protect the U.S. consumer, the FTC has used its authority to identify, combat, and foil these scams.  For example, the FTC sued an e-commerce company promising next-day shipping of masks and other personal protective equipment for lying about the actual lengthy delivery times.[6]  The FTC is seeking refunds to consumers, monetary damages, and injunctive relief.[7]

In addition to suing scammers on behalf of American consumers, the FTC has sent numerous warning and demand letters ordering fraudsters to cease and desist their deceptive business practices.[8]  We expect that such FTC enforcement activity will increase in frequency and volume.

Remember, as with all advertisements, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

SLG actively advises clients on issues concerning unfair and deceptive trade practices, “Made in USA” claims, false and misleading advertising, and related matters.  For more information, please contact SLG at info@shelgroup.com.

 

 

[1] https://public.tableau.com/profile/federal.trade.commission#!/vizhome/COVID-19andStimulusReports/Map

[2] FTC & FDA: Warnings sent to sellers of scam Coronavirus treatments; FTC Announces Latest Round of Letters Warning Companies to Cease Unsupported Claims that Their Products Can Treat or Prevent Coronavirus.

[3] Want to get your Coronavirus relief check? Scammers do too.; Coronavirus checks: flattening the scam curve | FTC; Fighting Coronavirus scams: taking stock.   

[4] Utility company calling? Don’t fall for it.

[5] COVID mask exemption cards are not from the government.

[6] FTC Takes Action against Marketer That Falsely Promised Consumers Next Day Shipping of Facemasks and Other Personal Protective Equipment. 

[7] https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/202_3135_supergooddeals_-_complaint.pdf. 

[8] https://www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/enforcement/warning-letters.

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