POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Scammers prey on fear, which makes a pandemic the perfect time to strike.
The FBI is warning the public of criminals using COVID-19 as a platform to take their money.
“Throughout the country we’ve seen it and our concern is that it’s coming our way. Hence, we want to get out in front of it and provide as much education as possible,” said special agent Michael Pickett.
Here are schemes popping up around the nation to keep an eye out for:
You can spot these in your inbox. Fake CDC emails, phishing emails and counterfeit treatments or equipment.
“This is fraudsters who are attempting to sell masks, hand sanitizer and other products, or medical supplies if you will,” said special agent Drew Scown.
Avoid clicking on emails with promises of at-home test kits or unauthorized treatments, Scown said. Some fraudsters use a nearly identical email address of a legitimate organization to communicate with a victim.
Many scammers are promising free care to patients to gain access to their personal and health insurance information, including their dates of birth, Social Security numbers and financial data.
If someone from a government agency calls you for personal information, it's probably a scam.
“Government agencies will never call and ask for personally identifying information. Nobody from the FBI or secret service or IRS will ever call and try to obtain banking information from individuals either,” Scown said.
If you think it could be legitimate, there's an easy way to check.
“So for example, if you are getting a call from someone who claims to be the FBI, it’s easy to do a search online to find your local FBI office and ask to speak with the person who claimed to be from the FBI,” Scown said.
When criminals get money illegally, they have to hide the illicit funds.
“Oftentimes, fraudsters online or over the phone are not inside the United States. So, Americans are more leery or questioning when asked to send money out of the United States,” Scown said.
People are often tricked into being money mules through online job schemes or dating websites and apps.
Now, they're using the pandemic to exploit people, asking for money to help someone battling the coronavirus abroad.
Other scams to look out for are cryptocurrency scams and business email compromise (BEC) and advanced fee scams.
If you believe you are a victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.