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tv   Washington Journal Sally Greenberg  CSPAN  July 17, 2020 2:25pm-3:06pm EDT

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the issue of confederate statues in the u.s. capitol. the senate also convenes monday, to resume debate on the nomination of the director of management budget office. -- director of the office of management and budget. and the $745 billion defense authorization act. watch live coverage of the house on c-span. live coverage of the senate on c-span2. watch anytime on, or listen on the go, with the free, c-span radio app. greenberg testified before congress this month about scams consumers face during the coronavirus pandemic and she is the executive director of the national consumers league joining us via zoom this morning. sally greenberg, please explain what the national consumers league is and how you track consumers scams. >> the organization -- good
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morning, the national consumers league's an organization that's been around since 1899. we are the premier group to fight for consumers and workers in the united states and abroad. we have a special interest and focus on fraud. we have the url and we get many complaints that come through that about frauds of all kinds. and we share those with law enforcement and with members of the public and we do a weekly and monthly progress report. we would love listeners to sign up for that. that gives you a little bit of background about what we do. host: you testified before congress this month that the coronavirus opened the door for a tsunami of scams and fraud. do we have a sense of how many people have been targeted since mid-march? guest: yes, fraudsters are good at swooping into situations of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods,
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national disasters and this pandemic definitely falls into that category. so what we found is that there is a whole new range of fraud and efforts to scam consumers going on within the organized group of people and there are substantial numbers, by the millions of fraudsters in the united states and many countries around the world who perpetrate fraud on innocent consumers. we found that this pandemic is a very fertile landscape for fraudsters. since the beginning of 2020, the federal trade commission has received more than 120,000 complaints about identity theft, scams and other kinds of fraud linked to covid-19. of these complaints, nearly half indicated a monetary loss of $78 million.
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in april alone, some of the private sites that are not government sites, like google and other places where we go every day to find information, google announced it was tracking, in april alone, more than 18 million malware and phishing scams that are sent to consumers hoping you will sign up or give some private information and they were tracking 18 million of those per day. it gives you a sense of the magnitude of the fraud that's out there. the other open opportunity for fraudsters were the unemployment checks that were sent, $600 per week to millions of americans. 40 million americans have applied for unemployment. that just opens the door for identity theft for fraudsters.
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the estimates are that, under the cares act, that many millions of dollars - the department of labor said it could be as much as $26 billion has been stolen through identity theft. fraudsters are signing up for unemployment checks that are not theirs and stealing them from consumers and workers and are depending on these checks but they find them gone and the fraudster has been in there first and put in your identity. i'm talking about your social security number, your birthday, your name, your address. fraudsters have that information, sadly, about every single american in the united states. so it's very easy to perpetrate fraud in those situations. those are some of the things i talk about before the congressional committee. there are other issues that have bubbled to the surface during the covid pandemic, including the fact that there has been
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gouging across the country, a huge amount of gouging. i mean people putting on masks on the internet at a time when we didn't have a lot of masks charging far more than they ever had before, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, personal protective equipment being put up thousands and thousands of dollars more than it was worth. we also have situations of hoarding where people will hoard huge amounts and they gouge consumers because you cannot get it and it's been hoarded by some group or network. those are some of the issues that came up and its endless. of getting a refund, i don't know how many people signed up for a live event like a theater or a concert event and it's hard to get your refund back. it happened to me.
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i signed up for a tour to go abroad and i am not going to get anywhere near the money i invested in the tour including my airfare because airlines are not returning money. they want you to get a voucher in many cases. lecture in the a beginning of april and i never got my money back for that. two tickets that were not cheap. unlike every other consumer out there, i want my money back and we are calling attention to this before the house committee. host: sally greenberg, executive director of the national consumers league talking about can -- covid scams and we want to hear your stories if you been impacted. do you have questions about this? you can call in on this and the phone lines are open.
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as folks are calling in, we talk about fraud but what about another aspect that you talked about on this program before, bogus cure scams especially right now during coronavirus. rise andhave we seen a at what is the federal government doing to get those bogus cures off the market? i'm glad you mentioned that. the pandemic has been a heyday for fraudsters who like to offer , in the best of times, will lotions, cbd and be cbd -- it could infused drinks to supposedly give our immune system a jumpstart or a cure or address the symptoms of covid.
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we have even found there were vaccines thaty are being offered to consumers. in thee not showing up usual google search. what we find is they are on social media so you may find them on facebook. you may find them on other social media sites. youare being told that if pay $29 or five dollars for the shipping of a vaccine and the vaccine is free but shipping 90ts are 495 -- four dollars five cents. some bogus offer and they will send you a vaccine that will prevent you from getting covid. we have seen a real uptick in those since march of this year. the u.s. food and drug administration has sent 80 warning letters to purveyors of fraudulent covid-19 treatments. the federal trade commission has warned more than 250 companies to take off these phony and
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bogus offers of treatment for covid-19. as of right now, there is no treatment for covid-19. there is no cure for covid-19. there is no vaccine for covid-19. if you are being offered any of these, they are a sham, don't waste your money, and some of them could be dangerous. they are not vetted carefully and they don't have manufacturing practices that we have come to expect through the fda. that's the gold standard for how we deliver drugs and over-the-counter medicine to americans. there is only one drug that's been approved by the fda through the clinical trial process to treat a rare form of epilepsy in children that has a cbd as its active ingredient. we all have friends who swear by this stuff, it helps my arthritis, and my knee.
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proven not one ounce of therapeutic benefit to date. ist could change but there just this huge surge of cbd products on the market and covid comes in and folks say this is a great way to prevent or protect my family from covid. don't believe it because there is no scientific evidence to back that up stop host: plenty of calls for you already, joe out of maine, good morning. caller: yes, good morning, thank you for having me on. my first question is, if you no one of these snake a salesman that's lying about products, is it going to be a result? will you charge them? that's my first question. is there some records legally? host: what is your second question so we can take them together? caller: i want to ask her why
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she is not that's my first question. -- is there some recourse legally? putting a light on your skin and that will stop corona? i would call that a snaggle salesman -- a snake oil salesman. you are going after cbd people? that's very important and i want to thank you for your time. thank you for those great questions. guest: the first thing is we work with law enforcement officials. so we are really pleased and we -- host: what is your second question so we can take them together? caller: i want to ask her why she is not calling out donald trump for corona. that clown brought -- bought all the corona in india. are you going to go after him for putting a light on your skin and that will stop corona?
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i would call that a snake oil salesman. you are going after cbd people? that's very important and i want to thank you for your time. host: thank you for those great questions. guest: the first thing is we work with law enforcement officials. so we are really pleased and we have written and have an ongoing dialogue with the federal trade commission and with the food and drug administration. when they find these snake oil salesman selling products, they write letters, warning letters and they say if you don't take down these ads and quit claiming this drug will treat covid, you could be out of business and we expect to hear from you in 48 hours. if not, you run the risk of having your company dissolved. we will report that to the fda. these are federal agencies that are consumer protection agencies that care about health. what's important is that members of the public knows agencies are out there where they can report to us at we have 250 warning letters one of the main federal protection agencies, 80 warning letters from another one on covid and
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snake oil. anybody involved in peddling these products should be reported to the ftc and the fda. i believe the supreme court ruled recently that even the president of the united states is not immune from investigation. i would say who's ever out there making these claims, no matter what your status is, stop doing it because it's against federal law. anybody making these claims should be investigated. host: i want to show one graphic for our visual learners. this is from the ftc consumer sentinel network reports, looking at reports of fraud and identity theft over time. you can see the spike particularly in fraud reports here on this chart starting in march at the time when coronavirus really started hitting the united states. 134,000 reports overall. the estimated total fraud loss, upwards of $88 million. a little over $260 per individual reported their estimated median fraud loss. can you explain with the consumer sentinel network is and how can the ftc investigate over 134,000 reports of fraud?
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guest: the consumer sentinel we use because we and other consumer organizations and law enforcement use it as a portal to report instances of fraud and fraudulent claims. organizations and law enforcement use it as a portal to report instances of fraud and fraudulent claims. it's a good question how they can investigate that many. the fda and sat down with the ftc and there is a lot of people in the room working on these issues. you've got google working on pute issues and amazon has in a huge number of resources into tracking both fraudulent andms and counterfeit drugs bogus claims and taken them down. they have done that with gouging, they have done that
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with their algorithms. someone might be hoarding products that should be going to a hospital and maybe they will sell them on the open market. it sounds like a lot. our tax dollars are going to support very robust antifraud programs and federal agencies that are there to protect our health. we've been very pleased by them getting out there and warning companies. one thing i would like to see is companies shut down. it's not just the federal law enforcement. across the country, every state has an attorney general. areattorney general offices very important to consumers. they are there to help us with claims against fraud and to
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police gouging behavior and hoarding and they have been doing a good job. we talked to the attorney general in this last two weeks andowa, pennsylvania, d.c. we will talk with the attorney general in kentucky. about what they are doing to police this tsunami of fraud we have seen as a result of covid. we have officials who are set up to try to protect us from all these frauds out there. the fraudsters will get through and will they steal identities and apply for unemployment? yeah, that will happen but without these private and public efforts to uncover them and unmask them and prevent them from doing what they are doing, we would be in worse shape. we can never do enough to prevent the fraudsters from stealing money from consumers. host: you're on with sally
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greenberg. caller: good morning and thanks for taking my call. this summer, i was going to travel to a wedding in new trip, tod on another london and to israel. so i trying to save money booked through places called and got protection, get insurance, got priority and once it occurred, i had a note from the doctor that we are over 70 and should not travel because were such, we got the runaround. dropped calls and they never answered and i finally got through on the new jersey call and they finally gave me a voucher. they would not recognize anything else in spite of buying all this insurance. there are a lot of scams by people like cheapo air and one
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travel and it's difficult to travel in these times. i understand their predicament but they're not responding ethically. thank you. host: sally greenberg? guest: i agree with everything you just said. wheren the same situation we paid for airfare and i did it through a tour agency and i have friends who called me and asked what i would do. they won't give me my money back. we have found there is a very thin layer of protection from consumers. i'm not getting a full ralph and -- for a full refund. i paid for the same thing, insurance, cancel anytime insurance. the company will give me some refund but they are keeping my insurance, they are keeping my cancel for any reason insurance. i didn't cancel, they canceled.
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-- you should call your attorney general in arizona. you should report they are keeping your money and they want to offer you a voucher. the second thing is we have two great senators in washington who andesent massachusetts connecticut, senators markey and blumenthal. there are a handful of other senators who have introduced give me my money back, give me my refund back now. forceot there to consumers to take a voucher. you didn't sign up for that. you are not required to give this company a loan. flights were canceled without your having anything to do with it. my flight was canceled, my trip was canceled, i feel and you and all the other americans out there who paid good money and got insurance should get every single dime back. i am frustrated as well as you are. we are trying to get members of congress the support they need
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so we can get this bill passed. i can look up the bill number but in the meantime, you should call your attorney general and say i demand to have every single dime back i paid. this was through no fault of my own. i'm not 100% sure on this but on the insurance piece, i bought insurance in case something happened to me. i didn't buy insurance in case they canceled the trip on me where i had no choice of going. i bought cancel for any reason insurance. i feel like that's on them. i think i should get all my insurance money back. that is an insurance i bought to protect myself if something happened like i broke my leg or a family member needed me to stay in town. we are fighting that battle alongside you and i'm glad you called and glad you have an yourtunity -- do call
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attorney general's office. i think you should probably write us and we will send that information into members of congress. i'm not sure we have a -- as good a database as we should have in all the billions of dollars cap by the airlines and live eventers in the space or tourist space and i can't tell you the number of friends who called me and said i can't get them to give me my money back. host: for the viewers who want to write to you, where should they go? go to and we have a portal for collecting complaints. host: tom is next out of illinois, good morning. tom.r: this is host: go ahead. caller: i have been using it for i use this saline solution for my nasal cavities and i gargle with it as well.
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i got a post on my email the other day that there was a claim that when you did that, the virus does not live in a saline solution and that you actually are protecting yourself by keeping your nose clean because you don't let the virus multiply. whenever i go out in public, i do it before i go and when i come home, i do it after i get done. i don't know whether this is true or not but i haven't gotten sick and i've been in a lot of public situations. is it true or not? know: it's difficult to whether products are living up to the claims they are making without having any scientific evidence behind those kind of claims. drug, take a prescription that has been for many letters of vetting and scientific peer
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trials whereinical they have tried and proven that the product works. over-the-counter aspirin or a sleeping pill or prevents high blood pressure or cholesterol, those products have all been tested and the fda has given them approval. the over-the-counter products you are talking about dunker -- don't go through that robust testing. there is all sorts of stuff on the market that claim to do a variety of things where there is no scientific evidence. it may work for you. you haven't gotten sick, fortunately, but millions of americans have not gotten sick so you may be in a category where people -- where you wouldn't get sick anyway. i am very skeptical of those claims. i tell them not to believe it and if i see a scientific basis for making those claims.
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you're probably wasting your money if you're spending especially on over-the-counter drugs or medication or a solution or whatever. you can do a little research but i'm skeptical. i'm not sure you are spending your money well. host: sally greenberry is our guest this morning, the national director of the national consumers league. you can call and ask her question about scams and fraud. is theue you brought up congressional hearing you testified at this month. you had concerns that you have had doubts about the federal government's ability to regulate household products at a time of quarantine and social distancing. can you delve into that? guest: sure, we have a federal agency called the consumer
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product safety division. ther job is to regulate 15-20,000 household products, it sounds like a lot but if you look around in your house and your car, any of those products, productit's a cleaning or whatever ingredients may be in that, it could be a classic tablesaw, all the products in a nursery you take care of children whether it's a high or products tog clean a kids face or whatever. all these things are regulated by the consumer products safety division. skateboards, we want to make sure that if things go wrong with any of those products that there is an opportunity to recall them.
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many times, product or not made in the way we hoped and they are not as safe as we hoped were in the case of toys, they may have high lead content. not so much anymore but a number of years ago before we got a strong bill passed, we were having high lead content in toys and kids were getting poisoned. what you want in that situation is the company to be able to take the toy back so you wanted to be recalled. you want a company to be able to be in touch with the consumer and right now, because of covid, it's been difficult to get the robust as wes as wanted to so companies may not want to take products back if they are found to be defective. we are just letting consumers know that if you have a product that you go online and find it has a defect of some sort especially of its interacting
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with kids or an older person in your home, you want to be able to send that product back to the manufacturer. if the manufacturer doesn't want the product, you need to get a refund and dispose of the product. that process has somewhat come to a halt because of covid. there is a dangerous situation for young children and that is the problem of furniture tipping over on them like dressers and tables and television sets. there have been hundreds and hundreds of children who have gotten pinned by heavy furniture and the way around that is to design the furniture better but if you have a piece of furniture in your house, there should be some way to anchor that furniture to the wall.
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furniture companies were coming out and installing anchors for products that had a tendency to tip over and they can't do that now because of covid. we are concerned about that. that gives you a sense of how that process has slowed down. we won companies to resume coming back and helping families anchor product because the risk especially to little children and older americans, we won many of these products designed in such a way that they don't tip over. have you ever experience where you pull out a drawer in a file cabinet and you try to pull out a second drawer and it won't pull out? the reason it won't pull out is because it's been designed to not tip over. if you pulled out both of those file cabinet drawers, the whole file cabinet would tip over. we want designs like that in furniture where the physics has been studied and the piece of
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furniture is prevented from falling over and you don't want to risk the lives of little children but many have died. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] host: sally greenberg joining us this morning. we are taking a few calls from linda in orange, connecticut. i don't have a personal experience but i have a question based on the comments that sally has made. able to buy products that they say they can reference thatogle and products could be scams or hurt them, that they would poorly ingest medication or anything like that. where are they finding them? are they finding them on marketplaces like ebay and
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facebook? is, i seequestion these tv ads for products like butilege and p --revagen none are approved by the fda but they have very aggressive marketing campaigns and they are not inexpensive and they make some pretty big promises. i was wondering how we have so many things that are openly advertised on television all day that aren't approved by the fda and yet they are readily available on the market in stores and on tv. any of thoseu seen advertisements on social media? where have you seen them and what kind of products? onler: i have seen things
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ebay but i don't use facebook. loluca andone called you are supposed to drink it and it's a grand cure. i am skeptical so i don't really delve into them. people are just selling them randomly but i don't really understand how they are able to do that anywhere in the united states if we have any sort of consumer protections at all. it varies state to state but nonetheless, it seems like it's pretty much a wild west of products that people can just buy even instantly. they are buying them up on facebook or ebay or wherever the bargain news is. they are not hiding the fact that they are selling them and
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they make some pretty grand claims. i really don't understand how this is legal. host: thank you for the questions. we are hearing from elise in california. good morning, you are next. caller: i might share with your audience that it was 121 degrees the other day in rancho mirage. yeah, we are in the palm springs area. host: do you even go outdoors when it's that hot? caller: very quickly just from your house to your car to wherever you are going. you go to the market and back again. we are in a heat spell out here for the past few days. host: i hope it breaks soon, go ahead. caller: this is the way the palm springs area is during the summer but during the winter, when the entire country is covered with snow and cold, we are nice and warm at 80 degrees. you give-and-take with where you live.
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up the i want to bring program that president obama created and he had elizabeth warren put it together and it's a consumer financial protection bureau. elizabeth warren put it together beautifully. she has her complete staff, her job was to find fraud, help the consumers with either credit , faulty pieces of equipment, foreclosures that illegal aid and fraudulent foreclosures. she was incredible. she is incredible and we have all seen her during the debates. she is one smart cookie and she's committed and she's incredible. however, as soon as donald trump into office, that was one of the first apartments he gutted along
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with now the justice department and now the state department. it's just terrible because we are losing protection instead of gaining any. don't know sally's position, if you worked for the government or has her own private organization or whatever but there have been over 400 bills that congress has been trying to put through for consumer protection. the senate with mitch mcconnell hasn't cast anything. the consumer is pretty much screwed when it comes with any kind of protection because they are not doing anything. takinggot the president hydroxychloroquine and saying is beautiful. it doesn't do anything. it gives you a heart problem. host: we got your point, let's
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let sally greenberg jump in. guest: of course, these are very important federal agencies and it was the brainchild of senator elizabeth warren. but iter ran the agency was run by very competent former attorney general from ohio named richard cordray. they are important in financial protection. that the industry, whether as the auto industry or the mortgage loan industry where the financial services industry , payday loan regulations, important with the consumer protection bureau and it's able to do its job. we are big fans of that agency and yes, there have been many bills in congress and sometimes, the bills passed even in times when you don't have necessarily the votes for all the things we
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want to do for consumers. we get a lot done. i'm with a private organization. understandrtant to is there are both federal agencies that are paid for buyer tax dollars like the cfpb, important agency that we all should support because they are out there protecting all of us. this is an ecosystem of nonprofits like mine which support the federal agencies which take fraud complaints and send them to the federal agencies and we all work together. i will agree with you. we could do a whole ledbetter and must do a whole ledbetter on protecting consumers whether it's financial fraud, payday loans, whether it's charging people too much on their automobile loan or skimming money back or taking advantage of communities of color which happens across the board in health care. we can do a whole lot more for consumer protection.
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i am with you 100% on that and we got bills stacked up in congress. i mentioned about the refund. this is so critical that consumers get the refunds back. it's through no fault of their own, their flights were canceled were tours were canceled step i'm like where's my refund. to have everyight dime back i spent on that we are struggling with that now. we have great members of tryress who are helping us to get the money back from companies including airlines that got $50 billion in the ppe money. they were given $50 billion for infrastructure and some of that money should be going back into the form of consumer refunds
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yes, we are calling upon the facebook's and twitter's and so many of these used around the globe to freddie -- to vet very carefully. it is unacceptable these bogus products are being advertised. hard withtrying very a strong, a whole team of anti-fraud people. walmart has been on their website bedding products that are phony, bogus, whether peoplehms, keeping out who are gouging consumers. problem being
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charged a lot of money for products that should not cost that much. organizationrofit that works on behalf of consumers and maybe work with calloutnt agencies to those who take advantage of the covid crisis. this ecosystem -- veryday's briefing is personal to me as a father of kids. millions of- to the kids apart of our public school system in california. and thousands of adult who support our -- adults who support our educational system in california. we're looking forward to our


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