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Covid scams cost Americans nearly $500 million — and criminals are now eyeing the child tax credit

Visoot Uthairam | Moment | Getty Images

Americans have lost nearly $500 million to Covid-related scams since the start of the pandemic, according to Federal Trade Commission data.

And the agency is warning that con artists will likely try to take advantage of families who expect to get monthly payments from the child tax credit, which start Thursday.

Around 327,000 people filed a fraud complaint to the federal agency between Jan. 1, 2020 and July 8 this year, the data shows.

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Victims lost a combined $488 million, according to the Commission. The typical person lost $366.

While fewer seniors have been duped relative to other age groups, their losses are almost three times higher — the typical person over age 80 lost $1,000 to fraud.

Criminals have used multiple avenues to steal money from unsuspecting Americans, including fraud related to online shopping, travel and government stimulus funds during the pandemic.

“While people are scared about their health and finances, con artists are having a field day,” Lucy Baker, a consumer defense associate at advocacy group U.S. PIRG, has told CNBC.

The actual amount of fraud may be much higher, since the data only reflects scams that the public reports to the FTC.

Online shopping accounted for the largest number of reported scams: 53,000 complaints, or about 16% of the total.

Americans increased their online orders during the pandemic as they spent more time indoors. But many were victims