RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Scams didn’t stop for COVID-19.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central Virginia released its list of the top three scams that emerged most frequently over the course of 2020, amid coronavirus-related lockdowns, remote working, and uncertainty about the future.

According to a release, the BBB serving Central Virginia received thousands of complaints in 2020.

One pattern that emerged was scams related to fake websites.

Local BBB officials say online purchase scams were very costly to consumers and businesses. According to a release, more people lost the highest amount of money to individual online purchase scams than any other scam in 2020.

The BBB serving Central Virginia says the moral of the story is to conduct research before making a purchase.

“Never send money by anything other than a credit card, as any other method has few if any ways to get your money back once you realize you were scammed,” the release said.

The second most frequent scams that Central Virginians dealt with in 2020 were pet scams.

“The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased demand for pets as people wanted to add a pet to the family to ease loneliness and tension of prolonged time at home,” the BBB serving Central Virginia said in a release. “With this rising demand came a spike in pet scams whereby online searching ends with a would-be pet owner paying hundreds of dollars or more to purchase a pet that ultimately doesn’t exist, never showed up, or was a different animal than what was paid for by the buyer.”

BBB officials recommend going to a local animal shelter, instead of relying on virtual communication and viewing, to purchase a pet.

According to a release, the top scam of 2020 in Central Virginia was employment-related.

A 2020 BBB report found that 65 percent of fake online job postings are related to becoming a “warehouse distribution coordinator” or similarly-titled position involving package reshipment.

With so many people forced to work from home because of the pandemic, and record-high unemployment, fraudulent job postings, fake recruiter emails, and work-at-home schemes, increased, as well.

“The military were really targeted by criminals because scammers also know discharging or retiring service members, most married and with kids, really need to find a good job quickly — especially tough to do during the COVID crisis,” the release said. “The moral of this story is that if it looks and sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true.”

BBB officials say the best defenses against scammers are common sense, knowledge, and checking with the BBB before making purchases or filling out fraudulent job applications.

“An especially tough year for consumers and businesses was made even tougher by scammers who took full advantage of the pandemic, the angst around it, and the uncertainty of the future,” BBB serving Central Virginia President and CEO Barry Moore said. “Ripping off the innocent is what scammers do, and unfortunately they’re very good at it.”

LATEST HEADLINES