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FBI issues warning for cyber criminals taking advantage of COVID-19

FBI
Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 18:35:48-04

CLEVELAND — The FBI has issued a warning to cyber criminals cashing in on the coronavirus pandemic. Some criminals, it turns out, are putting a new twist on old scams.

"There has definitely been an uptick in COVID scams," said U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman.

Cyber criminals are targeting Americans concerned about their health, families and jobs.

Things you should look out for:

  • The FBI is warning Americans to be on the lookout for anyone sending email about selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19, so be alert to counterfeit sanitizing products and PPE items such as masks, gowns or gloves
  • There are also phishing emails that ask you to verify your personal information in order to get your stimulus check from the government

"The government is not going to email you and ask for your personal information. The government is not going to call you and ask for your personal information. The government already has your personal information from your tax returns and that's where the stimulus checks will come from," said Special Agent Vicki Anderson of the Cleveland FBI.

So far, the FBI has received more than 4,000 calls across the globe and more than 650 in the United States, including some in northern Ohio.

People are falling victim to email scams by clicking on links attached to emails.

Never click on an unfamiliar attachment or link, always type in the web address yourself, Anderson said.

There is now a COVID-19 fraud coordinator at the U.S. Attorney's Office for a couple of reasons, according to Herdman.

"A, we want to identify the bad people. B, we are in the position to prosecute right away and minimize the victims," he said.

The National Center for Disaster Fraud typically deals with fraud surrounding tornadoes or hurricanes. But, it is now up and running in connection to COVID-19, according to Herdman.

Fraud complaints will be taken and funneled to law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney Offices, he said.

There are a couple of ways to alert law enforcement if you are a fraud victim. Contact the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center or by emailing The National Center for Disaster Fraud at disaster@leo.gov or by calling 866-720-5721.