'More prevalent than ever:' BBB warns of scams, fraudulent activity during COVID-19 pandemic

MILWAUKEE -- Staff at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are busier than ever as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic -- combating criminals capitalizing on COVID-19.

People in need of businesses they can trust should remember not all are legitimate. During this time of uncertainty, crooks are trying to take advantage of people, and some businesses are using the coronavirus pandemic as a payday.

Jim Temmer

"The scams are going to be more prevalent than ever because scammers rely on emotion, such as fear, people unknowing, and anticipation, and not on facts," said Jim Temmer, president and CEO of the BBB Serving Wisconsin. "There was one instance, a small store outside of Green Bay broke open the toilet paper packaging and was selling it for $6 a roll. We've heard complaints -- big businesses, small businesses -- all across the state."

Nationally, 147 coronavirus-related scams were reported as of Tuesday, March 31. Temmer said the BBB Serving Wisconsin was also receiving complaints -- including price gouging.

"It's things like hand sanitizer, masks, surgical gloves, anything you can think of associate with this virus," he said.

People have reported fraudulent activity and people still being charged, perhaps when a gym is closed, a hotel reservation is canceled and beyond.

"The big one everyone has to be aware of is the government check scams. We all heard in the press about the government checks that everyone is going to be getting," said Temmer. "People are being texted saying, if you pay $50, we'll get you your check within 24 hours."

Wisconsin Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca also reminded that: "The IRS will never call, text or email you to ask for personal or banking information, and neither with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue."

If you want to report a business or get information about it, head to BBB.org. There, you can also find a link to Scam Tracker -- an interactive map and details of what is going on in your area.