Steve McFarland, CEO of the BBB of Los Angeles, joined ABC7 via Skype to discuss and give people some advice on what they can do.
How have complaints increased during the pandemic?
"We are just being deluged with consumer complaints. We've never seen anything like it before. We started off in January, February just about like 2019. Then March about a 20% jump. The month of April 40% higher, 40%! That our office normally does in the L.A. about 400 complaints a day, we're well over 550. It's just an incredible amount of complaints. Our staff is keeping up with it, but we've really been deluged," said McFarland.
Do you know why you're seeing more complaints, is online shopping a factor at all?
"We're finding out that people have more time now. Some are furloughed, some have been laid off and people have time to maybe correct some of these problems. The other issues are that there's more online shopping going on, a lot of deliveries and so on. And so between those two, combined with the fact that, you know, money means more to people these days - it matters. People are taking their issues and problems now, which has increased, in addition to the COVID complaints and they're calling the BBB and they're going to be bbb.org and we're processing complaints like crazy," said McFarland.
Can you give us an example of something that has jumped out at you recently?
"We started off in March with a lot of COVID ones like fake masks, deliveries and so on. We even have people selling creams and antibacterial virus lotions. A variety of complaints came in on incenses. So, you light incense and that supposedly is going to keep the virus at bay and your home is going to be sanitized. You combine all the COVID issues with all the standard complaints that we get from all the scammers, including now the tax stimulus scam, the census scams and job employment scams and it's really crested into a huge amount of complaints now. For our office in just L.A. there will be over 120,000 complaints this year," said McFarland.
What can people do to protect themselves or file a complaint if they have one?
"To protect yourself go to bbb.org, and our nonprofit will provide information on providers and suppliers. If you go to bbb.org/council/coronavirus you can see all the latest scams that are related to the virus along with some tips. You can report scams at bbb.org/scamtracker. You could also go report ads and gouging at bbb.org/adtruth, and so we're seeing a lot of Medicare issues come up, a lot of Amazon type things, where you have to pay to get your delivery, which is really not true. And of course, all the COVID scams rampant right now," said McFarland.
MORE: COVID-19 scams - 2 IE men arrested in alleged PPE fraud
MORE: Scam alert - Watch out for texts with link claiming you've been exposed to coronavirus
Looking for more information? You can find COVID-19 help, information and resources here.