FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related scams


SAN DIEGO — The FBI says scammers are using the coronavirus outbreak to try to steal your money and personal information.

“The reality is, most of the schemes being perpetrated by these fraudsters are schemes we’ve seen before – the only novelty being they are now related to coronavirus,” said Todd Hemmen, assistant special agent in charge at the San Diego Division of the FBI.

The FBI says the vast majority of these schemes are cyber in nature, with fraudsters claiming to be from health organizations like the CDC through the use of email and social media. Others are claiming to sell medical supplies and medicine.

Earlier this week, the FBI arrested a scammer in Los Angeles.

“He identified himself as having discovered both a cure for coronavirus and a preventative pill,” Hemmen said.

The FBI encourages folks to watch out for phishing emails regarding things such as charitable contributions, financial aid, airline refunds, fake cures and vaccines or fake testing kits.

Residents are also urged to avoid clicking on any links or opening any attachments from a sender you do not recognize. These safety measures can keep you safe from bad software, like ransomware.

“Ransomware provides opportunities to both infect and lock down your computer. Normally in this scenario, fraudsters will submit a ransom payment in order to unlock your computer,” Hemmen said.

If you do want to learn more about a solicitation, do your homework.

“If you’re receiving information requesting charitable contributions, for example, we’d encourage folks to cross-check that information through the organization’s website and perhaps a phone number for that organization. We wouldn’t rely on anything coming directly to your email, especially if it’s unsolicited before contributing resources to it,” Hemmen said.

Click here for more about how to protect yourself and report COVID-19 fraud.

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