COUNTRY CLUB HILLS, Ill. (CBS) — Scammers have been using the coronavirus pandemic to profit at an alarming pace.
Tens of millions of dollars in fraud are on record, and one Country Club Hills family could have been the next victims of a sanitizer scam.
As CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reported Thursday night, it all started last week when an envelope ended up in the Franklin family’s mailbox under suspect circumstances.
It’s what the family didn’t do at that point that saved them a lot of money.
“They used the keywords, ‘It’s from Purell.’ And this is at the time when the pandemic is going on,” said Monalisa Franklin. “My husband says, ‘It’s from Purell, and I said, ‘Oh, OK.’”
It all started with an email with the sender labeled as, “The Germ Fighting Solution.”
But reading further, the message was more word salad than corporate pitch.
“And it had some misspelled words,” Franklin said.
Franklin said her husband got the email on Tuesday, June 16. The day after, a priority envelope showed up in her mailbox with “cashier’s check for $1,950, to the order of James and Monalisa Franklin, from Nevada State Bank,” she said.
The last time Franklin was in Nevada was about 30 years ago.
“That is a scam,” said Steve Bernas of the Better Business Bureau, “what we call the tip-off to rip-off, because what most consumers end up doing is depositing it.”
Bernas said it is fortunate that Franklin did not deposit the check. It probably would have cleared in a few days, but she would likely be on the hook for the cash weeks later when the bank might determine the check was fraudulent.
So bow does the scammer benefit from something like this, in theory?
“They may call you up and say: ‘You know what? The check cleared, but we spent too much. Can you wire us some money back?’”
The Federal Trade Commission has received more than 91,000 total COVID-19-related complaints this year, with victims reporting more than $59 million lost to COVID-19-related fraud.
“A lot of people don’t report it because they’re embarrassed,” Bernas said.
“I would have been out a lot of money and then some,” Franklin added.
Fortunately, Franklin did not get scammed, and she hopes others won’t either.
“That’s what makes me so angry,” Franklin said. “Whoever sent this knows this is a time that people really need money.”
As was clear to Franklin, the makers of Purell emphasized that they had nothing to do with this. They said they do not issue checks to customers in cases like this.
The company said it is reprehensible that someone would use their name in this situation.