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Spotting and avoiding scams targeting diverse communities in Indiana

Spotting and avoiding scams targeting diverse communities in Indiana
July 02
13:17 2020

Vidya Sethuraman
India Post News Service

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting millions of Americans, and not just in the physical sense.  In America, it’s estimated there are 14,000 coronavirus-related cyberattacks per day. That means it can affect your computer, your tablets, phones and your money.  

Every year, scammers steal hundreds of millions of dollars from people, selling fake services and worthless products – everything from jobs, education, and debt collection to housing and health. Scammers pretending to be the government threaten people with jail if they don’t pay nonexistent fines or fees. EMS briefing on June 25 brought together public officials, legal aid providers, community advocates, and those who’ve experienced fraud to talk with local reporters about how to better inform people and help them protect themselves from scams.

 Curtis Hill is the 43rd Attorney General of Indiana. The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General works to safeguard the residents from these scammers. We receive 150 – 200 complaints every week related to consumer protection.

Attorney General Hill said his office has been receiving complaints on price gouging, landlord-tenant issues, and refund issues. Attorney General Curtis Hill said the complaints received so far have involved high prices being charged by superstores, home improvement stores, grocery stores, e-commerce websites, and others. Consumers can file price gouging and other complaints online, and they can expedite their complaints through a review process.

Rev. David Greene has been the Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church (doing business name of “Purpose of Life Ministries”) in Indianapolis for 25 years. He elaborated on the story of a man who fell victim to an online scam and lost $1600. The scams take a lot of different forms, with the largest reported as online transactions. “Unfortunately, these types of scams are common, particularly during difficult times such as the pandemic and affect the group who cannot afford to lose the $ amount,” Rep.Greene said. He urged the residents to report all these cases to the FTC.

Todd M. Kossow is the Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Midwest Region in Chicago, which is responsible for 11-Midwestern states. Our country is amidst two major crises, the pandemic and the financial implications due to the fraudulent activities, said Todd. As of June 15, FTC has received over 107,000 coronavirus related fraudulent activities. Consumers have reported losing a total of more than $69 million to COVID-19-related fraud.

In Indiana we have received over 1000 reports and about $664,000 in losses. Since March 2020, the FTC has issued more than 250 warning letters to various businesses that advertise wellness products and other services that allegedly address COVID-19. In addition to online shopping, other top COVID-19-related fraud complaints include small business owners are at-risk following an unprecedented rise in online scams, fraudulent unemployment insurance claims. Study shows, African American and Hispanic communities are more vulnerable to these scams and they report less on these activities.

Andrew Johnson is the Chief of Staff of the Division of Consumer & ; Business Education at the Federal Trade Commission spoke on what happens when we report fraudulent activities. The FTC encourages consumers to file a complaint whenever they have been the victim of fraud, identity theft, or other unfair or deceptive business practices. They can do it online, or by calling the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC investigates fraud and provides free consumer information.

The main way to stop this from happening is through education, where employees and customers are trained via social media campaigns from financial institutions to look for things like unexpected password or personal information requests. In addition to online transactions, you should beware anyone who calls you unsolicited under the guise of a state or federal agency and asks for your personal information, especially bank account or social security numbers. If you’ve experienced or heard about scams of any kind, please write at ftc.gov/complaint.

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