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As Internet Crime Rises, New Colorado Law Targets Sale of Online Goods


When COVID-19 hit, many Americans saw the internet as a lifeline—connecting them to family and friends, work colleagues, health care services and online shopping for necessities such as  groceries.

Criminals saw opportunity.

Internet crime has jumped in Colorado and nationwide amid the pandemic. And while people have largely returned to meeting and shopping in person, online fraud remains stubbornly high.

In 2021, victims in Colorado lost more than $130 million to cybercriminals, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. That’s about double the more than $65 million in losses reported in 2019.

“The pandemic really was like throwing gasoline on an already nationwide fire with these scams and frauds,” says Seth Boffeli, senior adviser with the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

Colorado consistently ranks among the top 10 states for fraud reports related to online shopping and negative reviews, Federal Trade Commission data shows. Such reports include businesses that don’t disclose costs, try to prevent people from leaving honest reviews about products or services they bought or refuse to honor a guarantee on online purchases.

Fraud perpetrators posing as well-known online retailers are a significant issue, says Mark Fetterhoff, senior adviser with AARP ElderWatch Colorado, a partnership with the state attorney general’s office.

“Scammers have gone berserk with the Amazon name because so many people have been reliant on it,” Fetterhoff says. “Even people who don’t have an Amazon account can get caught up in this because they know it is a legitimate entity.”

ElderWatch receives 200 to 300 calls a month from Coloradans reporting suspected fraud.

Focus on fraud prevention

Online thieves may promise free products, request payment information or claim your computer has been infected with a virus. They often make contact through text messages, phishing emails, social media and pop-up ads.  

To help Colorado residents spot such scammers, AARP’s ElderWatch holds regular virtual events with fraud prevention tips. During a recent telephone town hall, state Attorney General Phil Weiser warned that con artists often resort to pressure tactics, and he urged consumers not to make decisions in the moment.

“We’re not living in a time that warrants trust,” Weiser said.

He will join ElderWatch for another telephone town hall on Wednesday, May 3, from 10 to 11 a.m. Anyone can participate by calling 833-380-0732.

Weiser’s office is also targeting criminals who misuse online platforms to sell stolen goods—a growing problem that he says increases costs for businesses and for consumers.

Log on to a site such as eBay or scroll through Facebook Market-place, Weiser testified before a state House committee last year. You’ll see photos of car trunks full of unopened packages; postings for the sale of “unclaimed” or “returned” goods; and warehouses stacked with boxes of brand-name tools, for sale at a fraction of the retail price, he said.

A state law, which took effect Jan. 1, aims to curb such activity. It requires online marketplaces to identify sellers, verify seller information and provide a tool so consumers can flag and report suspicious activity.

Learn more about how to protect yourself online at Also find previous ElderWatch fraud presentations at To report fraud, go to the site or call the AARP ElderWatch Colorado Helpline at 800-222-4444.

Cynthia Pasquale is a writer living in Denver.

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