Minority communities have been more likely to fall prey to scammers during the pandemic.  That’s the conclusion of researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Southern California.   The Better Business Bureau® (BBB) collaborated in the findings that show minority communities are more likely to lose money to scammers. The study analyzed scam reports from before and after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers compared reports to the BBB Scamtracker with demographic data from the affected zip codes. The results indicated that those reporting from zip codes with a larger portion of Black, Hispanic, Asian, and other racial minorities are more likely to lose money when targeted by scammers. When examining the nationwide data, Muskegon, MI is ranked as the 13th most-affected zip code for scams in the United States.

The report also found that those reporting from zip codes with a population less likely to have GED or high school equivalent education are more likely to lose money when targeted by scammers.

“The results of this study show that scam education is key in helping our community combat these cons,” says Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “By understanding which communities are most impacted by scams, we can better work to educate and support those who are the most likely to lose money.”

Scams involving online purchases have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. Scam reports involving masks and other PPE increased significantly in March, April, and May 2020 as websites failed to deliver the protective items ordered online. While the number of reports has decreased since then, the number of online purchase scam reports remains high. They include pet scams and items purchased from websites found on social media. Non-delivery of purchased items is the most common complaint received. BBB has also seen a large increase in phishing and employment scams during the pandemic.

These latest research findings enable BBB and its partners to more effectively target consumer education initiatives. Further analysis of scams in 2020 will be released in the upcoming BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, due out the first week of March.

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