Consumer Reports: New data shows spike in COVID-19 scams

As if the coronavirus pandemic hasn't hit consumers hard enough, new data shows a huge spike in COVID-19 related scams.

One of the latest schemes involves a phishing email that claims you're entitled to something called the Global Empowerment Fund.

The Federal Trade Commission is also warning about bogus COVID-19 mask exemption cards and Consumer Reports warns of others.

In March, Kalli Davidson got a notification on her phone that a purchase was made on her credit card at a nearby Target.

"I'm like, 'Hmmm, I'm not at Target,'" she said.

She immediately confirmed with her bank that her card had been compromised.

"I couldn't believe that it happened. Maybe it was someone reeling from the whole COVID-19 situation," she said.

Davidson's not alone in being the target of a con artist.

The Federal Trade Commission has recorded over $59,000 coronavirus and stimulus-related complaints with losses totaling over $74 million.

Here are common coronavirus scams to watch out for: phony COVID-19 remedies, cures and treatments including teas, essential oils, and intravenous vitamin-C therapies. No cures or vaccines have been approved to treat COVID-19.

Financial scammers are claiming they can speed up your stimulus payment check. Be wary of any type of robocall or email that uses the term "stimulus" and asks you to provide personal information like your social security number.

And then there are phishing scams from fake websites that may have "coronavirus" or "COVID-19" in their domain names.

"People need to be very vigilant about sharing personal information if they did not initiate the contact," said Christina Tetreault of Consumer Reports.

As for Davidson? Because she took immediate action, the entire Target charge was removed without her having to pay a penny.

If you haven't already, sign up for push notifications for your card and bank activity so you can be alerted to possible fraud right away. Also, check your credit reports. The big three credit reporting agencies are offering free weekly online reports through next April.

Annualcreditreport.com is the one website where you can get those free reports.
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