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As Scammers Leverage Pandemic Fears, SCDCA Joins FTC, Other Partners in National Crackdown of Deceptive Income Schemes; New cases, FTC data highlight broad scope of scams making false promises of big income

Mon, 12/14/2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA), along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners today announced a nationwide crackdown on scams that target consumers with fake promises of income and financial independence that have no basis in reality. The impact of these scams has intensified as scammers take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and financial crisis.

Called “Operation Income Illusion,”the multi-faceted crackdown encompasses law enforcement and educational initiatives. More than 50 legal actions against the operators of work-from-home and employment scams, pyramid schemes, investment scams, bogus coaching courses, and other schemes that can end up costing consumers thousands of dollars. Income scams have a massive effect on consumers, according to a new analysis of FTC complaint data. Consumers have reported to the FTC that they lost more than $610 million to these scams since 2016, with reported losses of more than $150 million in the first nine months of 2020.

“Scammers are preying on the unemployment and anxiety arising from the pandemic by making false promises of big income working from home,”said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If someone promises you guaranteed income, but then tells you to pay them, tell the FTC right away so we can work to shut them down.”

Some of the schemes targeted in Operation Income Illusion had a noted impact on one or more specific groups: students, military families, people on a limited fixed income, immigrants, Black Americans, Latinos, the deaf and hearing loss communities, or older adults.

“Education is a key tool in fighting scams,”said SCDCA's Administrator/ Consumer Advocate Carri Grube Lybarker. “Ensuring consumers are aware of the latest scams is an important component of preventing them from becoming a victim. We encourage South Carolinians to beware of scammers and share what they learn with their loved ones and friends.”

As a part of this sweep, SCDCA released new educational materials aimed at helping consumers spot and avoid income-based scams:

Download Ditch the Pitch, SCDCA's guide to guarding against scams for more ways to keep yourself safe. To report a scam, call our Identity Theft Unit at 1(844) TELL DCA (835-5322) or visit and click the Identity Theft/Scams tab. 

The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs aims to protect consumers from inequities in the marketplace through advocacy, complaint mediation, enforcement and education. To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free in SC: 1 (800) 922-1594.