New BBB report shows 25% increase in scams due to pandemic

Annual Scam Tracker risk report reveals 1 in 2 reported scams noted financial loss

More than 46,000 scams nationwide were reported to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker in 2020.

At the end of the year, the BBB looks at the numbers, amount of money lost, types of scams and more to find new trends. This year, the annual risk report shows trends influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic is the perfect storm when you think about,” said Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia.

From the large demand of PPE and vaccine sign-up or simply people adjusting to online everything, scammers took advantage of it all.

The BBB scam tracker saw nearly 25% more reports in 2020 compared to 2019.

“Locally, the (government agency) imposter scams were number one followed very close to online scams. Nationally, online scams were by far the top scam of the time,” said Wheeler.

The report also shows a growing number of younger people are getting scammed.

“The other thing we saw was a shift in age group of who had the most losses and for the first time ever the 18 to 24-year-olds actually had the largest losses they were aligned with ages 65,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler said that the group was most victimized by fake check scams.

“Well, why the 18 to 24-year-olds tend to fall more victim to this is when you think about it they haven’t really used checks. They may not be familiar with the rules or how it can work,” said Wheeler.

That’s why regardless of age Wheeler recommended everyone know the signs. The study showed vulnerability is at an all-time high with nearly 1 in 2 reports noted financial loss.

“If someone is looking for money upfront from you, if they’re asking you to pay in any weird way, gift cards or wire money or something like that, if they’re offering something that isn’t available somewhere else and they need you to make a decision immediately,” said Wheeler.

Those are red flags Christopher Turner of Patrick County wishes he would have known. He lost nearly $8,000 in a loan scam through Cash USA.

“I’ve been out of work since the pandemic. I was hoping to consolidate all my bills and make one payment to get on track and now I’m far off track,” said Turner.

Turner said he found the company online and thought they were legit. He paid in gift cards then the company put money in his bank account so but then when he talked to the bank they told Turner he was scammed. Now he owes the bank.

His regret is finding out about the BBB Scam Tracker after the fact.

“You can check who is on that Scam Tracker, to find out who it is and their name (Cash USA) will pop up at the top of the list,” Turner said.

For a look at the Scam Tracker, risk report click here.

The BBB also released a study on gift cards and found last year more than 980 complaints were filed involving gift cards with a reported loss of nearly $3 million. A lot of times scammers will ask for gift cards as a payment because it’s not traceable.

“What a lot of folks don’t realize is once they give out that number and the pin they (scammers) can clean that card out. They can use it and you think you still have the card so you don’t really realize you’ve been scammed. The money is gone and there’s no way to get it back,” said Wheeler.

The FTC found the gift cards scammers ask for the most are Ebay, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon and Target. For a look at the study click here.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.