Originally on CBS 17

April 17, 2020

Scams related to the coronavirus are growing as criminals devise new and unique schemes to steal your money. 

Since January, nearly $14 million dollars has been lost to scammers using COVID-19 as an excuse to get your personal data or cash according to those tracking the theft patterns.

“The crooks are out in force because this is a golden opportunity,” said NC Attorney General Josh Stein. “They want to get their hands on your stimulus money and get their hands into your bank account.”

One way they do that is through fake emails like one purporting to be from the CDC warning you of “high risk areas” to avoid.

The communication contains a link for you to click for more information, but if you click that link you’ll be opening yourself up to a scammer.

The schemes also include phony health care or fake insurance offers which you need to avoid because the real thing is available to you.

“If you lose your job and in the course of that, your health insurance —you can enroll in the marketplace—the ACA exchange today,” said Stein. “It’s an open enrollment if you lost your health insurance.”

The Federal Trade Commission is tracking COVID-19 Scams nationwide and you can look at real-time maps showing what’s happening in your area.

The FTC has also categorized the most frequent COVID-19 scams which it says involve: 

• Phony travel and vacation offers
• Online shopping fraud
• Bogus text messages 
• Imposter scams

“If someone calls and says they are with IRS or your bank and you need to give them your bank account number to deposit stimulus checks—they are criminals trying to steal your money,” said Stein. “Don’t respond to them.”

The attorney general’s office has an online complaint form you can access if you think you were scammed.

The $14 million dollar loss figure is based on those who’ve reported scams.

The FTC says it could be higher because some people haven’t reported their losses.

The agency says as more stimulus money hits people’s bank accounts the number of losses will increase.

By the way, the FTC says the average COVID-19 scam victim lost about $270 to scammers.