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As if 2020 weren’t already the worst year in recent memory, we’ve got one more thing to add to the running list: Consumer scams are up. We’ve seen the best of people in the form of medical professionals and frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’ve also seen the worst of humanity as con artists have come out en masse to prey on us during this uniquely difficult time. Which is not to say that these shysters weren’t around before 2020—they were, and they’ve been steadily ramping up their schemes as more of our lives are conducted on the internet. The unfortunate truth is that if you’re online, getting scammed in one way or another is a question of when, not if. The best way to avoid being ripped off is to know the techniques they use to try to separate you from your money. That’s why 5280 deputy editor Lindsey B. King—who was nearly the victim of an elaborate attempted scam herself—set out to write “The 5280 Guide to Avoiding Consumer Scams.” “These fraudsters are expert criminals,” King says. “They know how to exploit your fear to extract sensitive information. They also know victims are often too embarrassed to report their experiences—and that’s how they continue to operate.” In just the first half of this year, citizens of Colorado reported $15.5 million in losses from consumer scams, many of which used the pandemic to their advantage. In fact, the state rejected tens of thousands of fraudulent claims for unemployment assistance that would have totaled $750 million to $1 billion. Reading King’s feature is a good start toward protecting yourself. Then, as Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser says, the next step is “constant vigilance.”