The Investigators: BBB reports COVID-19 related scams on the rise as cases increase in the Mid-South

BBB identifies more scams involving COVID-19 relief money

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Federal, state and local agencies continue to warn the public that scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money and personal information.

One Raleigh woman called the Better Business Bureau after she received text messages that promised her money.

Two weeks ago, Susan Garts said she received a text message that read “Emergency funds are available today 4/6. Reply with yes to process for max 2948."

"No dollar sign. I didn’t respond, I didn’t do anything,” she told The Investigators.

The next day, another text from another number and offering a higher amount of money.

“I was suspicious,” she said.

When a third message arrived, Garts had enough. She called the BBB after watching a WMC Action News 5 segment that warned folks about COVID-19 related scams.

“My husband and I are seniors and they’re going to prey on people when there’s money floating around,” said Garts.

“Any scam that you’ve heard about money and just throw the coronavirus into the mix,” said Nancy Crawford with the BBB. “The scammers are using that big time as their hook these days to make you think their pitch is legitimate.”

BBB warns of coronavirus scams

In a six week period, Crawford says the BBB has received 54 COVID-19 related scam reports. That’s more than one report a day.

So far, $1,375 has been stolen.

“That doesn’t sound like much, which is good, because it means the people that are hearing these things are stopping and asking about it and not reacting immediately and losing money,” said Crawford.

One scam Crawford has seen is a call to a local grandparent saying their grandchild is sick with COVID-19 and they need to wire money to help the grandchild.

Crawford says another woman lost $300 after she thought she’d purchased a puppy and a special crate the supposed seller said was needed to protect the animal from COVID-19.

The BBB says it reports scams immediately to investigators.

“All the regulatory agencies are out there looking for things that shouldn’t be said and taking the appropriate action to shut those down,” said Crawford.

But the hope is to stop the scam before there’s a victim, which is what Garts did.

“There’s so many people who play and prey,” said Garts. “They’re just looking for someone to fall in their trap. Am I overly negative? I don’t know.”

The BBB says be skeptical of anyone with contact you. Do not provide them your personal information over the phone or in an email or text. And be wary of miracle cures and other items you buy online.

Check out the seller before you purchase.

To report a scam to the BBB, visit bbb.org/scamtracker

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