TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, state and federal leaders are warning people to guard their wallets against emerging scammers looking to take advantage of people's generosity or desperation to protect themselves.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Friend and the Federal Trade Commission warned of coronavirus-related scams developing nationwide last month. Now, new scams are popping up in Florida, Fried said.
Since February, FDACS has gotten 41 complaints relating to the coronavirus. Most of them have been related to travel and lodging cancellations.
The new scams the department is warning against include undelivered goods listed for sale online, door-to-door sales, fraudulent offers to work from home and fake checks claiming to be from the government.
Scammers have also been caught setting up fake charities that claim to help COVID-19 victims, Fried said.
"Especially during these difficult and uncertain times, we have zero tolerance for scammers who would take advantage of Floridians," Fried stated. "As the state agency regulating charities, we are cracking down on anyone who misleads or deceives Floridians during our collective time of need.”
The tactics FDACS and the FTC warned of in February include misleading emails and posts promoting prevention tips, fake information about cases in nearby neighborhoods, websites selling phony products and using fake emails, texts and social media posts to steal money and get access to personal information.
If you suspect a scam, you're asked to report it to the FDACS Division of Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA (1-800-FL-AYUDA for Spanish) or online. You can also use the department's Check-A-Charity tool to figure out if a nonprofit is properly registered and if your money is really going to benefit victims of the coronavirus.
You can report concerns to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.