National Consumers League

NCL to Congress: COVID-19 is fueling an ‘unprecedented tsunami of scams’

July 9, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today urged Congressional leaders to do more to protect vulnerable Americans from a wave of fraud stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. In testimony before the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg said fraud linked to COVID-19 is affecting millions of consumers and costing U.S. taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented tsunami of scams. A combination of rampant fear and misinformation about the virus, combined with an economic catastrophe, has made consumers more vulnerable than ever,” said Greenberg. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been ‘pure hell’ for far too many consumers.”

Fraud is a concern in the best of times, but the economic collapse brought on by the pandemic, combined with the wide availability of federal stimulus funds has created a golden opportunity for scammers to divert billions in much-needed stimulus funds and unemployment insurance benefits into their own pockets, Greenberg told the subcommittee. NCL also warned Congress that fraud linked to the pandemic is a threat to public health.

“The pandemic has been a boon to scammers selling bogus coronavirus cures, vaccines, testing kits, and even CBD-infused immunity-boosting products,” said Greenberg. “At best, these products are ineffective. At worst, they can be dangerous or even deadly, particularly if consumers rely on such quack medicines instead of taking steps to reduce the risk of catching the virus or seeking treatment when symptoms appear.”

NCL applauded the all-of-government approach to beefing up anti-fraud enforcement and consumer education to try to combat COVID-linked fraud. More needs to be done to address the problem, however. Greenberg urged Congress to focus its attention on policies that can prevent the abuse of financial services that scammers use in order to be paid, including wire transfer services, gift cards, bank account debit, and P2P payment services.

“The scourge of coronavirus fraud will not be significantly reduced by enforcement and consumer education alone,” said Greenberg.

The recorded hearing can be viewed here.

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About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.