FTC Urged to Prevent COVID-19 Aid Check Scams

A bipartisan quartet of House Energy & Commerce Committee members have called on the Federal Trade Commission to be increasingly vigilant in cracking down on COVID-19-related scams. 

That came in a letter from House E&C chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and Consumer Protection Subcommittee chair Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Subcommittee ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). 

“As the United States faces the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, reports of scams and frauds are rampant," they wrote. "Hoax text message campaigns and scam robocalls are offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, and selling health insurance.”

They cited the checks being sent out as part of the CARES Act coronavirus aid package, and reports scammers are already trying to get hold of them or trying to get personal information by saying they need it to send out the checks or get the money out faster.  

“Right now, Americans are fearful of both the spread of the deadly virus and the financial instability that has come with the pandemic," they wrote. "We passed the CARES Act to help Americans in these hard times,” the four said. “We urge you to ensure that the FTC uses all its tools, including its law enforcement tools and coordination with State attorneys general, to take action against scammers and fraudsters that are trying to steal from vulnerable Americans.” 

The letter came Friday, the same day that the FCC and Federal Trade Commission jointly warned a number of companies against facilitating scam COVID-19 robocalls. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.