Offer a dollar and some will steal a million. The Secret Service estimates that roughly $100 billion in COVID-19 pandemic relief funds were stolen by unscrupulous individuals and organized crime rings. The Secret Service alone has over 900 investigations in progress, examining fraud and other potentially criminal activities.
Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other measures, the American government pumped more than $3.5 trillion dollars into the economy, providing relief for individuals and businesses alike. Unfortunately, some folks decided to steal or misuse some of the funds.
So far, more than $2 billion in funds have been recovered and government authorities are optimistic that more will be clawed back. Over a hundred people thus far have been charged, with more arrests expected. Some have already been handed multi-year prison sentences.
Interestingly enough, financial organizations, such as Green Dot and PayPal, have taken a lead in uncovering and reporting fraud. These organizations have proactively identified suspicious transactions, and when appropriate, they’ve handed information over to authorities.
It’s not just the federal government that has to watch out for scammers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported last March that scammers had bilked individuals out of nearly $400 million, hawking fake cures and illegitimate vaccines, among other things. More recently, some scammers have set up fake COVID-19 testing sites, complete with signs, tents, hazmat suits, sample collection and more.
The FTC advises folks to ignore robocalls and to not click on or engage with emails and texts you don’t recognize. Before buying or donating, make sure you double-check that you’re working with a reputable party.