FTC, BBB release report on COVID-19 scams targeting seniors

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, scammers have updated their sales pitches to include COVID-19 twists.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare is reporting on the details of a new report released by the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

The report shows older people are the age group that is most targeted by scammers.

The new government report shows retirees like Jerry Adams are most vulnerable to being scammed. Last month, we reported how Jerry lost money when a con artist called claiming he was with Mr. Adams’ satellite service.

Jerry said the guy on the phone claimed the company was changing satellites that would improve his reception. But first he’d have to pay a $199 fee to upgrade the reception. He believed it.

“I told them, I don’t have 1-99. Well, we hate to tell you this, but you could lose your picture in 24-hours. I thought, Oh, God. So, like a fool, I got out the VISA,” Adams said.

“Typically, older people have more money than those younger. That’s why they’re the target,” Tony Binkley, President and CEO of BBB of Greater East Tennessee, said.

The headline to a report just released by the BBB and FTC says 80% of money lost to scammers are people over 65.

“I said, no checks, cash  only. So they said we’ll sent you a cashier’s check,” Joan Lakey said.

In February, Joan Lackey was targeted by scammers twice. She didn’t fall for the con the second time, but many seniors do.

“You can’t win a prize, a lottery, or a sweepstakes unless you buy a ticket. You have to enter to win.  No one is going to call you out of the clear blue and award you a prize when you haven’t bought a ticket,” Binkley said.

Now scammers are updating the sales pitch to include a COVID-19 twist to their schemes.

“Typically those COVID twists are, ‘we’ll do security for delivery….’ ‘We will make this a safe and secure way to get your money,’ and ‘There may be some delays involved,'” Binkley said.

Remember, common scams and solutions include:

  • No one from court or law officer will ask you for money to pay a fine.
  • Publisher’s Clearing House does conduct sweepstakes but won’t call you in advance.
  • And, if you haven’t entered a sweepstakes, you are not a winner.

“If you have questions or feel uneasy, talk to someone you trust. Your bank. Just get somebody else involved in the conversation,” Binkley said.

Federal law enforcement says many of the scam calls form the islands — mainly Jamaica.

While it’s tough to catch them and make arrests, the Department of Justice says its annual “Elder Sweep Fraud” has netted 400 accused scammers in the last year.

It’s important to call either the FTC of your local sheriff’s office or police department if you have been scammed.


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