DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Texans are heading into the holiday season and Covid-19 numbers are on the rise again.

It’s the perfect combination for fraudsters.

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Add empty shelves and supply shortages at grocery stores and look out!

“I looked for disinfectants,” says Dr. Rosemary Briseno. She has two little boys and needs to keep her house clean and safe. “We’re out here in West Texas where supplies are difficult to come by.”

When the college professor couldn’t find name brand wipes and disinfectants in stores, she turned online, lured in to a very legit-looking site filled with “Flash Sales,” “Free Shipping” and “Privacy” notices about everything from “Data collection” and “Data disclosure” to, ironically, “Security.”

“Trademarks were there. Phone numbers, physical addresses.” Dr. Briseno says the site appeared very authentic. “You know I’m educated, and you’d think I would know the difference, but it was such perfectly done website.”

She spent about $52 on well-known brand name wipes and disinfectants on Cleanyos.com.

“It went through PayPal, and as soon as I hit send, I didn’t hear anything from that all.”

And then she did a little homework.

“Everyone kept saying, ‘Scam, scam, scam,’ and I thought, ‘Oh no!’ ” Dr. Briseno learned just how many people had been scammed.

According to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission, investigators estimate from July to October 2020 “thousands of consumers” were fooled. The complaints states Cleanyos.com is one of dozens of deceptive websites all connected to 50 fake email addresses and at least 40 PayPal accounts.

“We are working on trying to find the perpetrators,” says Federal Trade Commission Attorney for the Southwest Region Matthew Wilshire.

The FTC filed a Temporary Restraining Order shutting down the sties; however, by using social media ads and pop ups, sophisticated consumers are not staying down.

“All I can say is fraudsters are very adept at changing their email address, contact info, operating in shells and setting up new sites quickly,” states Wilshire.

And to fool people even more, the fraudsters are also using a physical address and phone number to a very real factor which makes very real products, but it does not make Lysol or Clorox disinfectants and wipes.

“We’re a toy company!” Vice President Sam Khare of MGA Entertainment said emphatically.

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MGA Entertainment is the parent company of Little Tikes.

Khare says Little Tikes is one of the largest toy companies in America.

“They use an Ohio address and phone number to make it feel authentic and to make feel like it was legit,” Khare tells the CBS 11 I-Team.

The FTC is now tracing bank accounts in hopes of tracking down the owners of these websites.

In court documents, the makers of Clorox and Lysol wipes say they have nothing to do with the websites listed in the FTC’s complaint.

Meanwhile, with Covid-19 numbers are the rise, several federal agencies tell the I-Team to expect a surge in scams as well.

OTHER WARNINGS FROM THE FTC, FDA, FBI AND CDC

–Phony Covid-19 clinical trials are phishing for your personal info.
–Crooked medical labs are offering Covid-19 tests but drawing your blood and billing you for other services.
–Prevention, treatment and cure manufacturers are pushing everything from questionable “CBD” and “amniotic fluid products” to “at home stool sample kits”

DO’S AND DON’TS

–Don’t be fooled by fake contact tracers- real ones do not need money.
–Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government.
–Do your homework. Search the name of the business and a word, such as “scam” or “rip-off” before you make a donation or place an order.

“I’m still angry,” says Dr. Briseno.

The simple search using the word “scam” and “Cleanyos.com” would have saved Dr. Briseno from the cleaning supply hoax. “It’s a literally a jungle out there.”

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