In testimony before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, the Federal Trade Commission said that combatting COVID-related scams "remain a top priority for the Commission, and we will use every weapon in our arsenal to do so."
The FTC testified that it is taking a comprehensive approach to identifying and addressing COVID-related consumer frauds that impact American consumers and businesses. The FTC said that its efforts are focused on law enforcement, collecting any analyzing data in its Consumer Sentinel Network to identify fraud trends, and outreach and consumer education.
Here are some of the highlights from the testimony.
The FTC emphasized the importance of the Consumer Sentinel Network, which collects consumer complaints about consumer fraud and other consumer issues. The FTC said that not only does it monitor the complaints, but that the consumer complaints received have led to "numerous" law enforcement actions.
The FTC testified that it is relying heavily on the recently-enacted COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act to prosecute COVID-related fraud, since the Act gives the FTC authority to seek civil penalties from violators. The FTC pointed to actions that it has brought related to false health claims and to schemes that exploited consumers' and small businesses' financial distress. The FTC said that it "will remain vigilant in protecting the public from harms that stem directly and indirectly from the COVID-19 pandemic."
The FTC also testified that it is also "deploying new tools and reviving old ones to try to address emerging trends that threaten consumers." Noting that the pandemic has required many work, school, and other activities to transition from in-person to online, the FTC said that it seen "soaring numbers of reports" about business impostors, undelivered merchandise, and losses from online shopping. The FTC also said that it has seen an increase in complaints about cryptocurrency investment scams and other types of income scams, as well as a complaints about medical treatments.
"COVID-related scams are likely to persist as the country continues to grapple with this pandemic"