FBI warns of scams during coronavirus pandemic

Right now people are worried — about their loved ones, about their jobs — and scammers are preying on that fear, according to the FBI.

“We’ve seen nationwide an effort by criminals to really take advantage of the pandemic associated with COVID-19,” Washington Field Office Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kevin Vorndran said Thursday. He added that you can protect yourself if you know what to look for and remain vigilant.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: Everything you need to know about COVID-19 in the District, Maryland and Virginia

Among the scams highlighted by the FBI are fake emails purporting to be from the CDC or other organizations claiming to offer information about the virus. Vorndran said it’s important that you don’t click links or open attachments you don’t recognize in these cases, saying they could deliver malware to your computer, steal personal information, or lock your computer and demand payment.

The FBI also said to be on the lookout for phishing emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. Other examples could include emails related to charitable contributions, financial relief, airline refunds, fake cures and vaccines, or fake testing kits.

Vorndran also said to be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19.

“In a time like this where people prey on that fear of this pandemic and the concern in our communities, people are more vulnerable than they normally would be to those types of frauds and scams,” he explained.

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So how do you avoid becoming a victim? Vorndran said that if you spot something that looks suspicious, you should research it independently before clicking any links. And the bottom line, he said, is if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you spot something that you believe to be a scam, here are the FBI’s recommendations for reporting it: