March 23, 2024

Fake IRS emails. Zombie debt. Romance schemes. Grandparents scams. Cramming. Nefarious tech support offers. Sweepstakes fraud.

Yes, your suspicions are correct: Everyone is trying to con you right now.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 1,304,002 reports of scams in the second quarter of this year, according to the agency’s most recent data, a 30% increase compared to the same period in 2019. Those include 667,507 reports of fraud, 286,855 cases of identity theft, and 355,630 other cons.

With so much more time on people’s hands—abandoned commutes, courtesy of permanent WFH policies, and the Great Resignation, a shift to leisure time and hobbies that erupted back in March 2020—you’d think people would take a few minutes to really think about what some of these offers are about. But consumers often don’t give suspicious situations the scrutiny they deserve, experts say, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation.

Between January 1, 2020, and October 18, 2021, the FTC received 270,301 reports of fraud related to COVID-19, in some way—either directly linked to the virus or simply instances where victims cite the pandemic in their complaints. Those cons translate into a loss $588.22 million; the median financial hit is $392.

Fast Company asked experts why now appears to be the perfect storm for scammers to take advantage of people. Here are six reasons:

The siren call of extra cash

As millions of people contend with layoffs or furloughs—or the…

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