Panel: Increase in scam activity linked to COVID-19 pandemic

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) — The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, on Saturday hosted a virtual “fireside chat” with Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and a panel of consumer protection experts on the continuing threat of scams linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 

The Kentucky Office of Attorney General has seen an alarming increase of up to 300% in monthly reporting of scam activity, since the onset of COVID-19.

“Protecting Kentuckians against fraud and scams is a critical mission of our office, and we are grateful to partner with NCL and today’s panel organizations to help equip consumers to spot and avoid COVID-19 related fraud,” said Attorney General Cameron. “Unfortunately, we have seen a significant increase in activity by scammers in recent months — from utility-related fraud to stimulus and unemployment check scams — as con artists seize on the fear and uncertainty surrounding the ongoing pandemic.
 

“We urge every Kentuckian to continue to be vigilant and cautious, to be wary of any communication that asks for personal information, and to report scams to our Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257 or online at ag.ky.gov/scams.”
 

Since the pandemic began, NCL, which operates the website Fraud.org, has seen a significant uptick in complaints as well about a variety of scams preying on increasingly vulnerable, financially strapped, and fearful consumers. Scammers running phishing schemes, stimulus check fraud, and even pet adoption scams have all been working overtime to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to defraud consumers.
 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented opportunity for scammers to defraud consumers in Kentucky," said John Breyault, NCL’s vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud, who moderated today’s event. "At a time when tens of thousands of consumers are at increased risk of fraud, it is critical that law enforcement, non-profit organizations, businesses and individual citizens work together to educate ourselves and our loved ones on how to spot and avoid these scams."
 

Consumer protection advocates with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central & Eastern Kentucky and the University of Kentucky (UK) Cooperative Extension Service also participated in the panel discussion.
 

“The BBB serving Central & Eastern Kentucky has not missed a beat since the pandemic began, helping consumers and businesses that have contacted us to check out scams like phony websites selling non-existent face masks, fraudulent employment offers, even fake government grants,” said Heather Clary, director of communications for the BBB serving Central & Eastern Kentucky. “We are watching increasing numbers of COVID-19 related schemes being reported to the BBB Scam Tracker website, and we invite the public to help by logging on to www.bbb.org/scamtracker to report fraud so we can spread the warning.”
 

“The current pandemic not only puts our physical and mental well-being in danger, it also places our financial health at risk,” said Dr. Nichole Huff, assistant extension professor of family finance & resource management with the UK Cooperative Extension Service. “Stress and strained finances increase our susceptibility to fraud, making it imperative we remain vigilant, educated consumers. Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service works to promote scam awareness and fraud prevention at both county and state levels through education, research, and outreach.”

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