Voice of the consumer: As pandemic-era scam attempts continue, here's how to watch out – KKTV

Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – Scams have been skyrocketing during the pandemic, and there’s a lot of different types. On the heels of Consumer Protection Week, I want to share ways to keep yourself safe from fraud and scams. KKTV 11′s Call for Action team talked one-on-one with the Colorado attorney general.
“National Consumer Protection Week is about telling consumers, ‘We’ve got your back, here’s what you need to know,’” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said. “The pandemic was a boom for scams. Over the last year, we got 15% more reports than the prior year. And the top scams were ones where people were basically subject to different types of pandemic scams, including this unemployment insurance fraud scam where so many people were preyed on, maybe their identity was stolen.”
Consumers reported 13,970 complaints to the Attorney General’s Office in 2021. Retail sales were the top complaint, which includes service and delivery issues, cancellation and termination issues, and unauthorized memberships or subscriptions. In second place were unemployment scams. Automotive sales and service was the third most reported complaint, which includes issues about vehicle purchases, service and repair issues and car rentals.
Other complaints include contractor issues; vacation and travel complaints; and harassment from debt collectors and healthcare and medical services, like billing and coverage issues.
The Attorney General’s Office also said consumers reported telecommunications issues, like billing disputes, service or coverage issues, fees and surcharges, and cancellation and termination problems. Finally, other scams included those in real estate sales and services, including rental and leasing, property management and real estate activities.
“The biggest scams over the last year have been scams related to the pandemic itself, often testing or sometimes cures,” Weiser said. “We had a recent case here in El Paso County, involving somebody who said they were giving test results. Except they weren’t actually compliant with what it meant to be a tester. They were telling people they were certified and they weren’t. People need to be careful (and) people need to do their homework,” he added.
“Unfortunately, the scammers are out there looking to take advantage of you. What we were hoping on the other side of the pandemic is there’s less fear out there. Because when there’s fear out there, people sometimes act out of fear, and that’s when they make mistakes.”
People should always be on the lookout for scams, he said.
“The No. 1 way consumers can protect themselves is to be vigilant all the time. It’s when you let your guard down and act quickly that you’re going to make a mistake,” he said.
It’s important to do your homework and watch for red flags. Make sure to research the company and check reviews. Also, trust your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t let scammers play on your emotions. Unfortunately, we also know scammers are quick to follow tragedies and natural disasters. If you’re wanting to help Ukraine and refugees, make sure to watch for scams.
“Scams will always follow what hopes and prayers are out there.  … There are scams starting right now: ‘How do you help people in Ukraine?’ Except they don’t actually help people in Ukraine, they make money for somebody else,” Weiser said. “Scams will be opportunistic, which means when a Marshall fire happens in Boulder, people will be more apt to prey on that in the Boulder area. When you’ve got droughts in other communities and they raise different issues, that becomes a subject for scams.”
Report scams and fraud to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office’s statewide consumer complaint line at 800-222-4444. Press option two to speak with AARP ElderWatch. You can also report scam attempts to StopFraudColorado.gov.
Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.
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