As if the coronavirus itself wasn’t enough, people are now having to deal with COVID-19 fraud. From small scams to businesses filing for the wrong assistance, this type of fraud is continuing to grow.
Trying to combat it isn’t easy right now. However, it’s up to everyone to remain diligent and report fraud whenever they notice it.
Understanding COVID-19 Fraud
Fraud involves any type of scam or theft. In this case, it’s fraud that’s directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, people are taking advantage of the situation to steal from others. By August, Americans had already filed more than 184,000 fraud reports. The losses totaled over $124 million. Much of this has come from stolen stimulus checks via scams or identity theft. As a comparison, this number was $77 million in July.
Of course, other types of COVID-19 fraud can include selling fake services, businesses promising deadlines they can’t meet and severe price gouging. Fraud has become so prevalent, especially with people so desperate for help, that the US Department of Justice has dedicated a section of their website just to helping combat this fraud.
Whether you work for a company that’s participating in fraud or you’ve encountered a scam, report it immediately. For businesses, report the fraud to your company’s ethics hotline. Most often, business-related fraud comes down to several main types:
· Claiming hard to get items are in stock, selling them and then not being able to deliver on time (businesses string out customers for weeks or months until the item comes in)
· Filing for small business loans as a larger business, even if it means submitting fraudulent data
· Price gouging on needed items
· Cutting down or slowing production to cause price increases (only in cases where the business isn’t shut down due to COVID-19 and should be running at normal production rates)
If an employee sees any of this going on, they should report the company immediately. All of the above are unethical and increase the growing COVID-19 fraud problems.
The Impact Of Fraud
While some businesses and individuals might see COVID-19 as an opportunity to make more money, fraud hurts everyone, including those committing it. For businesses, it can ruin their reputation and cause customers to shop elsewhere. For individuals, it can cause them to get fired, pay hefty fines and even go to jail. Many people who hoarded items at the beginning of the pandemic have already had to deal with fines and had their makeshift small businesses shut down due to price gouging.
Right now, many employees are afraid to report anything for fear of losing their job. Yet, they could still lose their job if the business is caught up with. Individuals are afraid to report scams because they feel embarrassed they fell for it. But, reporting it helps reduce fraud and helps stop it from impacting others.
Sadly, far too many people are taking advantage of this pandemic for unethical fraud. Reporting it is the only way to stop it and encourage those thinking about trying it not to do so.