Where there is any perceived vulnerability in our society, scammers and fraudsters rush in to take advantage of anyone looking for help. The coronavirus pandemic has offered plenty of opportunities for those looking to get money from people, whether it is price gouging, trickery, or outright theft.
But, when reports of coronavirus-related scams began rolling in, Berkeley Law’s Consumer Advocacy and Protection Society (CAPS) jumped into action. Collaborating with the Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice, more than a dozen students diligently scoured the Internet for scams and consumer frauds. They even set up “scam hunting happy hours” to bring together teams of students on Zoom to look for scams and explore potential fraud schemes.
The team found price gouging, scammers offering to “help” get stimulus payments, and various bogus coronavirus cures, to name a few. To date, they have found over 75 potential scams and consumer frauds. The scam hunters offered their findings to the Federal Trade Commission, the California Attorney General’s Office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Communications Commission.
Their efforts have already yielded results. The FTC recently sent warning letters to at least three of the companies that CAPS scam hunters identified. The Attorney General’s office doesn’t make its warning letters public, but has noted that leads from scam hunters have resulted in actions taken by that office.
We are grateful and proud – but not surprised – that Berkeley Law students have stepped forward in these times and helped to protect us all.