Consumer Alert: Companies’ claims of COVID cures raise the ire of the FTC

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Today I’m alerting you to all those con men claiming they can cure COVID-19. And leaders at the FTC have had enough. This month the Federal Trade Commission sent warning letters to 30 companies across the country.

Each letter gave the company 48 hours to stop making the claims or it could face civil penalties of almost $44,000 per violation. The companies were all over the country, and one was based here in New York. According to the FTC, the Biomonte Center near Queens claimed it had herbal tea that could prevent COVID-19 and another cocktail that could cure it.

If you come across any product claiming to cure coronavirus, contact the FTC.

The FTC has been busy this month. It just settled with a home security company for $20 million, the biggest civil penalty of its kind.

Vivint Smart Home installs home security systems in Rochester, NY and across the country. Door-to-door salesmen pitch the product, and those guys and gals work on straight commission. And here’s the irony, according to the FTC, the security company was guilty of identity theft.

Here’s how the FTC says it worked: When a customer needed to finance the security system but had poor credit, the salesman would find someone with the same name. He or she would use that innocent person’s credit to finance the system and make the sale.

This last story is not a scam, but many of you think it is. We’ve gotten dozens of emails from viewers who are concerned about a letter you’re getting in the mail, so I decided to look into it for you.

The envelope says it’s from IRS, but it’s on White House stationery. It references the two stimulus payments you got this year, one of which was $600 and another for $1,400. Then it reads, "This fulfills a promise I made to you…"

Yes, the letter is real. Just like his predecessor, President Biden is sending Americans a letter to remind you of his role in getting you that cash in your pocket. While critics say neither President Trump nor President Biden should have sent Americans a self-serving letter on the taxpayers’ dime, that little note does give you a number to call if you didn’t get your stimulus payment. It’s 800-919-9835.

You can also claim your rebate on your 2020 taxes.

That’s line 30 of your 1040 tax form or 10-40 SR. If you don’t know how much money you should have gotten, the IRS has a recovery rebate credit worksheet.

But I think Kiplinger’s explanation is far clearer than the government’s so-called worksheet.

If you buy tax preparation software, it will do the math for you. If you haven’t bought yours, Kiplinger’s analysis could be helpful.

So, if you’re eligible for a recovery rebate credit, that credit will either reduce your tax bill or increase your tax refund.

If you’ve already filed your tax return and didn’t claim your recovery rebate credit, you can file an amended return. The IRS provides helpful tips here.

And that’s your consumer alert.