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COVID-19 Scams Continue to Evolve

Federal officials say the median loss for North Dakota fraud victims is $258. (Adobe Stock)
Federal officials say the median loss for North Dakota fraud victims is $258. (Adobe Stock)
July 27, 2020

FARGO, N.D. -- The Federal Trade Commission says North Dakota residents have lost a combined $116,000 from fraud during the coronavirus pandemic.

Consumer protection experts say to keep that number from rising, old and new safeguards need to be followed.

North Dakotans have been targeted by COVID-19 fraudsters mainly through online orders for products such as masks, only to see those items not delivered.

Amy Nofziger, director of the Fraud Victim Support unit at AARP, says like pre-COVID times, seniors are a favorite target of scammers.

This time around, she says they're taking advantage of health guidelines for older adults to mostly stay at home.

"So when the nice person on the phone calls them, and is there to help them with their computer problem or whatever the scam is, you know it might be the first person in a couple of days that they've actually had communication with or talked to," she points out.

State authorities say contact tracing scams also have emerged.

Experts say it's important to become more educated about current health protocols during the crisis to know when something is fake.

Longstanding tips, such as never giving away personal information or money during an unsolicited call, are also advised.

When it comes to online scams, the FTC says brand new websites or a lack of a posted refund policy are red flags.

Meanwhile, Nofziger says it's important for victims to not worry about feeling ashamed and report what happened.

"Don't hesitate to reach out to your local attorney general's office, police department, AARP, whomever it is," she stresses. "We do not want victims to sit by themselves in their victimization. We want them to report it."

Nofziger says that gives authorities more valuable information to use in locating scam operators.

Nationwide, the FTC says victims have reported more than $90 million in fraud loss due to COVID-19 scams.

Disclosure: AARP North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND