FBI sees a rise in coronavirus-based fraud schemes
As if the scourge of the coronavirus wasn't enough, now misanthropes and malcontents in some Oregon communities are attempting to cash in on the pandemic.
The Portland office of the FBI warned last week that scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to try to steal unfortunate soul's money and personal information.
"Don't let them," a release from the bureau said. "Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits."
In particular, the FBI advised people to look out for the following:
Beware of emails claiming to be from this or any other federal agency claiming to offer information on the virus. Refrain from clicking on links or opening attachments you do not recognize.
"Fraudsters can use links in emails to deliver malware to your computer to steal personal information or to lock your computer and demand payment," the release said. "Be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide. Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received."
Be on alert for phishing emails asking that you verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government.
"While talk of economic stimulus checks (have) been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money," the release said.
These phishing emails typically claim to be related to charitable contributions, general financial relief, airline carrier refunds, cures and vaccines and fake testing kits, FBI officials said.
Bogus treatments or equipment
According to the FBI, scammers have been particularly busy attempting to defraud people by selling them products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19. Typically, these take the form of sanitizing products and personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full-face shields, protective gowns and gloves.
Reliable information on counterfeit PPE gear can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh. Other resources for information you can trust include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov) and the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov). If you've been the victim of a scammer and purchased counterfeit products, report them by visiting www.ic3.gov and to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at iprcenter.gov.
Accurate, up-to-date information on the COVID-19 outbreak is available on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov and a website specific to the pandemic at www.coronavirus.gov.
Finally, the FBI is reminding citizens to use good "cyber hygiene" and security measures by not opening attachments or clicking links within emails from senders you don't recognize; don't provide your username, password, date of birth, Social Security number, financial data or other personal information to an email or robocall; verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser; and check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link, for instance an address that should end with ".gov" but instead ends with ".com."
If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
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