COVID-19 spurs new list of consumer scams, experts say

COVID-19 is changing the landscape for consumers in so many ways, including the biggest complaint categories as evidenced by the latest report from the Consumer Federation of America.

An annual report was released Monday on how the pandemic is spurring a new list of top consumer issues to watch out for.

Pre-pandemic, the top consumer complaints were in the categories of auto, home improvement and construction, and retail sales.

"The worst complaint categories were home improvement and construction, fraud and mortgage problems...these are issues that usually involve significant amounts of money and have very direct impacts on consumers," said Susan Grant, of the Consumer Federation of America.

The top three fastest-growing complaints were medical billing, internet sales, and fraud.

"There's a trend of scammers keeping consumers on the phone to control them," Grant said.

Be aware if you receive an unsolicited call from someone asking you for personal information or payment, it is a scam.

"It not only deflects any questions that may be asked, but it also keeps those people from stopping and thinking and checking with somebody," Grant said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing new headaches for consumers, driving complaints about price-gouging, refunds for canceled events and travel, non-delivery of orders from closed vendors, and COVID-related scams.

"Clearly, the money troubles people are having as a result of the pandemic coupled with the fear that they're having about their own health and safety make them very vulnerable to abusive practices and scams," Grant said.

These are issues the Troubleshooters have been warning viewers about and helping to resolve. Getting money back for travel, canceled wedding plans, concerts, and, in the case of Rick Heuser, a refund for round-trip airfare.

"Just so thankful to you and the investigative team.. And it wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for you guys.. We're really, really thankful," Heuser said.

Another warning, the Consumer Federation fully expects COVID-19-related complaints to continue to rise, especially in the areas of landlord and lender complaints.
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