Fraudsters capitalizing on people at their lowest point, it's an issue that law enforcement says is only getting worse.
Unemployment fraud, stimulus check ripoffs, even romance COVID-19 scams: it's taking a big toll on people's finances and taking away from crucial resources.
"It's like a gold-rush for them really. Unfortunately at this time with so many people filing for unemployment and so many people receiving stimulus checks, they're out there going wild," says Supervisory Special Agent, Ethan Via. He says the FBI has found what is a difficult time for so many, has become a scammers paradise.
Governor Inslee addressed the rising crime today, saying "these folks are going to be in a particularly hot place when they're caught and convicted, we take this very seriously."
What is particularly devastating is that some thieves have gotten thousands in unemployment before anyone caught on, meanwhile so many people who truly need that check still haven't received one. A big part of the delay is the time it's taking for officials to vet the claims to try to avoid fraud.
"We're sort of at the top of the waterfall if you will. I think we're gonna see a lot more cases coming, " says Special Agent Via. And it's not just unemployment and stimulus check fraud. Seattle's FBI office reports COVID scams have already cost Washingtonians upwards of $300,000. Some target terrified people desperate for a cure, others convince people to supposedly invest in the creation of a vaccine. And a majority of them are targeting the lonely who are looking for love online. "People befriend somebody and then the victim falls in love and then their paramour or whoever tells them hey I'm sick, I have COVID I need money for treatment or testing, please wire me money."
Law enforcement says the best way to protect yourself: guard your personal information and be wary if anyone asks for it, check your mail-especially if it's from E-S-D, and most of all-if you are a victim, report it. "Nobody wants to admit they fell victim to any type of fraud so that is always a constant problem the FBI has, if we don't hear about it we don't know about it."