(WIVB) – As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a huge toll on our lives and the economy, consumer watchdogs say it’s enabling scammers to drain our wallets.
The New York Attorney General released her “Top 10 Consumer Frauds” for 2020, and number one on the list was internet-related scams, which also tops the Better Business Bureau’s risk index.
Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau said that most of the riskiest frauds can be linked to the pandemic.
“With the pandemic, a lot of older people started shopping online, but they were not really too sure about it,” said Melanie McGovern “Whereas a lot of younger folks are on their mobile phones, they are not at a place where they can sit down and do that research.”
The riskiest of internet scams are pet sales and pet supplies.
“So they are creating these websites with stock photos, or they are stealing photos off of other websites, and you think you’re getting a dog,” said McGovern. “Then all of a sudden, it’s ‘we need more money for a crate, we need more money because of the pandemic’, things like that.”
A special area of concern for the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General, and the financial services sector is investors’ susceptibility to cryptocurrency.
People see news of virtual currency, such as Bitcoin is turning huge profits- but those who lack the skills are taking big losses.
“They see people talking about all this money they are making in the cryptocurrency market and trying to get in, or scammers are asking them to pay with cryptocurrency and they are losing money because they don’t realize how much a Bitcoin is worth,” McGovern said.
She adds that the best way to keep your money safe is just to pay attention.
“A lot of these scams could be avoided with just a simple internet search,” McGovern said. “You come to BBB.org, you give us a call- we were open the whole time. Or you go into a search engine and just search for the product, any scams related with it, if it is a newer website.”