“People are desperate,” Slaughter said. “They are struggling financially. They’re worried about their health. They’re dealing with child-care issues. And that’s why it’s great that the money is coming, but bad guys are seeing that desperation, too, and are taking advantage of it as they do. We’re just looking out for people who are trying to take advantage of that stimulus money and other related programs.”
The FTC received nearly 2.2 million consumer fraud reports last year, up almost 27% from the year before, including a surge of online shopping complaints in the early days of the pandemic. Consumers reported losing more than $3.3 billion to fraud, up from $1.8 billion a year earlier.
Last year, the FTC introduced ReportFraud.ftc.gov, an updated platform for consumers to file fraud complaints.
The FTC is seeing scams involving personal protective equipment, or PPE. The agency has also pursued schemes involving the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides money to businesses to help them make payroll during the pandemic.
In the interview, Slaughter discussed the role the FTC is playing in chasing down and prosecuting pandemic profiteers.
Tucked in the third round of stimulus aid, largely unnoticed, was $30.4 million allocated to the FTC to fight not just the old consumer scams but also new schemes with a pandemic twist.