Tester Cracks Down on COVID-19 Scammers as Consumer Fraud Losses Reach $90 Million

Bill would give Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General authority to go after predatory scammers taking advantage of Montanans during the pandemic

U.S. Senator Jon Tester introduced a bill that would enhance the ability of state and federal law enforcement officials to stop scammers from taking advantage of Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak, and to better hold bad actors accountable for defrauding consumers.

“Taking advantage of folks in the middle of a global pandemic is reprehensible, and those seeking to defraud Montanans must be held accountable,” Tester said. “This bill gives law enforcement more tools in the tool box to crack down on scammers looking to pull a fast one on Montanans, and will give folks peace of mind knowing they are protected during this public health emergency.”

Tester’s Stopping COVID Scams Act of 2020 allows the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general to impose civil penalties on COVID-19 scammers for fraudulent activities involving the following deceptive acts and practices:

  • Those involving goods and services advertised as related to the pandemic;
  • Those involving goods and services that experienced an increase in consumer demand one month before the emergency and until the emergency ends;
  • Those related to the federal or state response to COVID-19, including testing and treatment, unemployment benefits, and economic impact payments.

Since January of this year, the FTC has received more than 130,000 consumer complaints related to the COVID-19 crisis. In total, consumers report losing nearly $90 million from COVID-19 related fraud. In April, Google reported that it was tracking 18 million COVID-19 malware and phishing emails each day.

The full bill text can be found HERE.