Submitted by John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League
Thursday, October 22, 2020 3:05 PM
Unfortunately for so many Americans, the picture I am about to paint will not be difficult for many to imagine. Fraud is rampant right now, as the pandemic serves as a catalyst being exploited by some of the most deplorable, and sophisticated, criminals in today’s globally connected criminal underworld.
Scores of Americans are falling victim to schemes left and right – from bad actors who promised quick processing of stimulus checks in the spring, to fake landlords offering cheaper rent for housing that doesn’t exist. At the National Consumers League, we are on the front lines educating consumers on the latest fraudulent actors perpetrating crimes on unsuspecting Americans. In partnership with policymakers and top technology companies such as Google, we are working to drive awareness surrounding the threats that persist and endanger the economic well-being of Americans, many of whom are already experiencing economic hardship due to the pandemic.
Recently, NCL partnered with some of the nation’s state attorneys general to raise awareness about efforts to take the fight to scammers in states throughout the country. In June, we held a virtual discussion with Attorney General Tom Miller on COVID-19 scams, followed by an engaging panel conversation. Our panelists, representing AARP Iowa and Iowa Workforce Development, shared critical insights on existing threats affecting Iowans. Here are our main takeaways from that discussion.
As the coronavirus has upended daily life, robocall operators have quickly shifted to blasting out spam phone calls offering coronavirus-related products and services. YouMail, a cloud-based telecommunications provider that tracks robocall volumes, estimates that over 118 million robocalls per day are inundating Americans. Robocallers offer all manner of bogus services, including air duct sanitation services, work-from-home opportunities, cut-rate health insurance and immune-system-boosting nutritional supplements.
Additionally, email scammers have not relented with the onset of the pandemic. They have, unfortunately, upped their game targeting small businesses and individuals, not just in the U.S. but globally. In fact, Google’s security team reported that during one week in April they blocked 18 million phishing emails related to COVID-19 per day, which is on top of the more than 100 million phishing email that seek entry to Gmail inboxes on a daily basis. The company also relayed to customers that “the phishing attacks and scams we’re seeing…