Study: Michigan consumers lose $2.94M to COVID-19 scams

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The year isn’t even over yet, and Michigan consumers lost nearly $3 million to COVID-19 fraud, a new study found.

The study by The Ascent, a Motley Fool service, found that Michigan had the 10th highest number of reported fraud instances among all 50 states, totaling $2.94 million in lost funds directly related to COVID-19 and/or stimulus check scams.

COVID-19 fraud includes any type of scam, fraud or identity theft related to the novel coronavirus.

As of Aug. 31, Americans reported over 184,000 cases of COVID-19 fraud and losses of over $124 million, the study found. Although reports of fraud have tapered off since May, The Ascent said another spike is likely with a new stimulus package on the horizon.

To compile the report, The Ascent analyzed data from the Federal Trade Commission to identify where consumers are most at risk of COVID-19 fraud occurring.

Key findings

  • Californians lost the most due to fraud ($17.2 million) by a wide margin with losses that are more than double that of second-place New York.
  • Consumers in Alaska have the smallest COVID-19 fraud losses, at $49,000.
  • Consumers in 20 states, as well as Puerto Rico, had median fraud losses of at least $300.
  • Consumers reported 11,178 cases of fraud where they were contacted by phone — more than any other contact method. But web-based fraud resulted in the most losses, at $20.97 million.
  • Consumers between the ages of 30 and 39 posted the highest number of fraud reports, but only had the fourth-highest dollar losses. Those in the 50-59 age group had the largest losses with over $13.1 million.
  • Credit cards were the most common payment method used by victims of COVID-19 scams, yet wire transfers resulted in the biggest losses ($28.29 million).
  • Although Americans reported over 27,500 cases of online shopping fraud, travel and vacation fraud resulted in nearly 2½ times more losses than online shopping, at over $40 million.

The FTC reported the following most common instances of COVID-19 fraud, according to The Ascent:

  • Purchase offers for at-home COVID-19 test kits or vaccinations
  • Stimulus payments that are stolen through identity theft
  • Robocalls offering scam services, such as inexpensive health insurance or work-from-home jobs
  • Sales of personal protective equipment with delivery dates the seller knows they can’t meet

The full study, along with tips on how to avoid consumer fraud, can be found online.

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