Coronavirus Scams Target Ohioans, FBI Warns

This article originally appeared on the Cleveland Patch

CLEVELAND — Even in times of national emergency, scammers will try to exploit the vulnerable. The FBI said Thursday it has seen two common scams arise in the wake of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.

"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," the bureau said in a statement.

The FBI said scammers are using two methods, primarily, to rip-off Ohioans: fake emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and phishing emails.

Scammers pretend to be a representative of the CDC, or other health agencies, and claim to have information about the virus, the FBI said. Their goal is to get you to click on a link inside their email or open an attachment.

"Fraudsters can use links in emails to deliver malware to your computer to steal personal information or to lock your computer and demand payment. 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," the FBI warned.

Phishing Emails

With a federal stimulus bill likely to be approved this week, scammers are now pretending to be government officials and are asking Ohioans to provide their personal information so they can receive their stimulus check.

"While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money," the FBI said.

Besides assuming the identity of a government official, scammers are also sending emails related to:

  • Charitable groups
  • General financial relief
  • Airline carrier refunds
  • Fake cures and vaccines
  • Fake testing kits
  • Counterfeit treatments or equipment

"Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves," the FBI said.

Simple Tips

The FBI provided some simple safety tips for Ohioans to follow:

  • Do not open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don't know
  • Do not provide your username, password, date of birth, social security number, financial data or other personal information in response to an email or robocall
  • Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and type them into your browser
  • Check for misspellings in web addresses

"If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov," the FBI said.