The FBI says we are living in a time of panic and fear because of the coronavirus, and scammers and thieves are seizing on that fear to taken advantage of people.
"We are concerned with scams including things like testing and testing kits, vaccinations and treatments, charities contributions, investments and impersonations," said John Casale, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's complex financial crimes branch in New York.
With thousands of people trying to find out if they have the coronavirus, FBI agents who deal with financial and cybercrimes say there are fake testing kits out there that are worthless.
"Individuals are engaging in providing opportunity to testing that do not actually exist, and the opportunity for individuals to provide counterfeit testing kits to entities for testing purposes," Casale said.
Also, beware of hackers trying to get into your phone or computer to steal your identity by baiting you with coronavirus information. They may try to get you to download an app or link.
Richard Jacobs is the FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the cybercrimes branch in New York. He said scammers are "sending some kind of news that may be eye-catching, may not necessarily be real but eye-catching. In a state of panic, individuals may click on that just as a reaction without thinking about what they are doing. So that is how these criminals are relying on fear to infect someone's computers.”
Sometimes. the links concerning COVID-19 can appear to come from official governmental agencies.
"Don't provide any personal information, and certainly don't send any money based on an email unless you can verify it," Jacobs said.
Utility companies around the tri-state area are also urging people not to fall victim to con artists who use the virus as away to get you to send money.
Beware of calls threatening to turn off your gas or electricity, and you should not be asked to pay with a gift card. Always ask for employee I.D. if a utility worker shows up at your door.
With the movie, TV and entertainment industry hit hard, the union representing performers is concerned about scams. This week, SAG-AFTRA sent info to its members warning about coronavirus fund-raising scams to steal people's identity and credit card info.
The FBI says you can report scams to their internet crime complaint center at IC3.gov.