Financial scam calls are on the rise in Maryland, and the state’s attorney general says it is because of COVID-19. In a normal year, the state Consumer Protection office receives about 40,000 financial scam calls, resulting in $10 to $15 million in recovery.
Attorney General Brian Frosh discussed his concerns Friday during a virtual forum with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, as part of National Consumer Protection Week. Discussions centered around how residents can better identify and avoid falling victim to scams.
Frosh says scam targets include unapproved FDA COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, as well as phony stimulus check payments.
“There are still folks and companies claiming that their dietary supplements, herbal products, can prevent disease,” Frosh said. “I would urge you not to try them. If you find yourself the victim of something like this, you can get in touch with the FDA.”
Van Hollen said the state is working with telecom companies to prevent robocalls from getting through to consumers, and efforts are also being made to provide consumers with the ability to better detect scam-related calls. Legislation has also been passed to enforce stricter penalties on scammers.
“We’re really trying to move forward on all those fronts,” Van Hollen said.
The recent COVID-19 relief bill, passed Friday by the Senate, also provides more funds to help protect consumers. The bill will go back to the House of Representatives for a final vote before potentially heading to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.
“It includes more than $30 million for the Federal Trade Commission to combat those who are engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices,” added Van Hollen.
The focus now he says is educating Marylanders about the risks to avoid as many scams as possible.
If you suspect you’ve been impacted by a scam related to COVID-19 treatments in Maryland, contact the FDA at 410-779-5713.