Consumer complaints of COVID-19 fraud surpass 15,000

Media Contacts
Ross Sherman

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

WASHINGTON — Scammers and other bad actors are trying to take advantage of Americans’ heightened fears around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and fraud complaints are soaring. Consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the virus surpassed 15,000 Thursday. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, the top complaint categories are travel and vacations, online shopping, text messages and imposter scams.

Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Campaign director, issued the following statement in response:

“American consumers have already lost nearly $12 million on COVID-19-related scams, and it’s likely only the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, scammers are already trying to steal your coronavirus relief checks or take advantage of the Small Business Administration loan and relief programs. We want to make sure consumers have the tools they need to avoid getting ripped off.”

U.S. PIRG Education Fund has developed a series of tips to help consumers facing these and other challenges during the pandemic, including:

  • If your airline or hotel won’t give you a cash refund, see if your credit card company reimburses non-refundable travel during the pandemic.

  • Report price gouging to the company and to your state attorney general if you spot excessively priced safety supplies, such as hand sanitizer. 

  • Beware of phishing scams. Avoid clicking on links or attachments from unsolicited emails and texts. Don’t provide personal or financial information through email or text.

  • If anyone reaches out to you claiming to be from a government agency or business, call a number for the agency or company that you know to be correct. 

  • Defend against fraud and identity theft by checking your financial statements regularly and getting credit freezes. 


U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund, is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.