Perhaps the busiest federal agency during the coronavirus pandemic has been the Federal Trade Commission, which has been getting a huge increase of complaints from irate consumers all across the U.S.
In Maryland and Virginia, the number of complaints received in July were up more than 135% compared with March. In D.C., the number was up nearly 110%, according to a study done by the website Social Catfish.
Many of those complaints alleged fraudulent activity, often from a bad experience with online shopping. Sometimes it was price gouging; sometimes, people filed a complaint after paying for something that was never delivered.
Fraud complaints involving vacation and travel also generated thousands of complaints.
Behind fraudulent activity, complaints about banking-related scams also generated tens of thousands of complaints. So did identity theft complaints.
“Scammers realize the desperation of most Americans and pretend to reach out a hand to people with supplies they don’t really have, such as stimulus money or essential grocery items,” the report said. “They then steal people’s money without giving them what they promised.”
Social Catfish recommends doing your research before buying something online from a company you’ve never done business with before, then be vigilant about tracking your order.
You also shouldn’t wait until the last minute to buy something you might need. Instead, give yourself time to shop around and compare prices so you won’t be gouged.
If you feel like you have been scammed, or are a victim of fraudulent activity, you can make a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission.