A recent study found Florida, New York, Texas, California, and Pennsylvania to be the five most targeted by coronavirus scams in the country.
They are also the most populous of the 50 U.S. states.
U.S. losses from coronavirus-related fraud and identity theft have reached nearly $100 million since the pandemic began in March, and complaints of COVID-19 scams have doubled in most states, a consumer protection group said on Tuesday.
Based on government data, the report highlights the vast scope of a fast-growing criminal industry from phony stimulus-check offers to shopping scams and fake cures.
Together, the five states account for about a third of more than 150,000 instances of COVID-related fraud reported nationally by the Federal Trade Commission from mid-March, when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, through July.
Those cases have cost victims a total of $97.5 million to date, according to the FTC. Even relatively small states saw huge spikes in COVID-related fraud in recent months, led by Maine, whose monthly complaints of coronavirus scams and identity theft quadrupled between March and July, the study said.
The report was published by the internet-based group SocialCatfish.com, which helps consumers avoid being defrauded online by determining the true identity of individuals or organizations hiding behind a phony persona.
Scams taking advantage of Americans' desperation in the midst of a deadly pandemic and accompanying economic upheaval "are running rampant," said Richard Neil, a spokesman for the report's authors.
Several new forms of fraud involve fake promises of government stimulus checks, often coming from robocalls, texts, or emails seeking personal and financial information the caller supposedly needs to deposit benefits into the victim's account, according to the report.
Price-gouging and other consumer product scams have also become widespread, the study warned.