There has been a spike in scammers feeding off of fear around the coronavirus. That's why the FBI says everyone needs to do their research before donating money or clicking on an email link.
"There are a variety of fraud schemes that we are seeing to take advantage of folks," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Todd Hemmen. "When someone is trying to keep up on the news and they see an email that appears to be from the Federal Government giving them advice, you can see how someone might fall for that."
There are three specific scams the FBI is warning about:
- Fake CDC emails: these emails appear to be from a health organization like the Centers for Disease Control, but if you click on a link or attachment it could download malware that can freeze or lock your computer.
- Phishing emails: these emails ask you to confirm personal information so you can receive your check from the government or other financial assistance.
- Fake treatments and equipment: posts and emails may offer cleaning supplies, masks, and cures but will instead sell you a fake product or take your personal information. You can find more information about counterfeit products on the CDC's website here.
San Diego's Identity Theft Resource Center said working from home actually increases the risk of falling for a scam.
"Being more and more isolated increases our vulnerability," said Eva Valesquez. "I am deeply concerned that the rates [of scams] are really going to skyrocket.”
The FBI says it is because people are using their cell phones and computers for longer periods of time.
"People are spending a disproportionate amount of time on their devices or on their computer," said Hemmen. "Because of that, we are more likely to open some of these attachments or view these emails."
If you feel like you are or have been the victim of a scam, reach out to the FBI's complaint center here. You can also call the FBI San Diego office at (858) 320-1800.
Hemmen said these scams are not going away any time soon.
"As long as there is the fear associated with these types of incidents, we will continue to see opportunistic scammers trying to take advantage of people's fears."