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Blumenthal Announces Investigative Steps Against Surging COVID-19 Scams & Calls on FTC to Take Aggressive Enforcement Action

Data shows consumers have been defrauded $350 million since the start of the pandemic, with senior citizens, immigrant communities, and other vulnerable populations hit hardest, In Connecticut, nearly 3,600 residents have lost $2.7 million to scams

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to aggressively enforce actions against COVID-19 pandemic scams. As new Chair of the Subcommittee, Blumenthal announced he would hold hearings to investigate the schemes targeting consumers that have proliferated over the past year. In Connecticut alone, consumers have encountered fraudulent vaccination appointments and sales, economic benefit scams, fake contact tracing, and counterfeit personal protective equipment and masks.

“The pandemic has raised new predatory threats from scammers and con artists exploiting personal loss and economic hardship. Consumers have been flooded with false cures, fake personal protective equipment (PPE), theft of stimulus checks, and other dangers,” wrote Blumenthal in a letter to FTC Acting Chair Rebecca Slaughter. “Hearings and oversight are planned by our subcommittee – to fight fraud and dangerous products so the FTC and Congress can confront these threats through timely warnings and swift deterrent action.”

Blumenthal highlighted those most vulnerable to these schemes, writing: “This onslaught of scams has hit hardest senior citizens, immigrant communities, and other vulnerable populations, who often incur greater losses but face obstacles reporting crimes.”

Blumenthal emphasized that the FTC should utilize new enforcement tools enacted by the December COVID-19 relief package, which give the Commission the ability to seek civil penalties for deceptive practices related to the pandemic.

Blumenthal expressed his readiness to work with the FTC to protect consumers beyond the pandemic, writing: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown in vivid detail that an active, engaged, and empowered FTC is vital to all consumers and should be a time for us to reinvigorate the Commission’s consumer protection mission.”

The full text of the letter can be found here.