FBI warn of new fraud schemes exploiting COVID-19 pandemic

People are selling fake tests and supplies and using phishing emails to collect personal and financial information

Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian

PORTLAND — Oregon’s U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams and the FBI on Friday warned of several new fraud schemes emerging that are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.

Scammers are targeting vulnerable people by setting up websites, contacting people by phone and email, and posting false information on social media.

Federal prosecutors and the FBI are urging the public to be on the alert for these frauds linked to COVID-19:

  • Testing scams: People are selling fake at-home test kits or going door-to-door performing fake tests for money.
  • Treatment scams: People are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
  • Supply scams: People are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
  • Provider scams: Individuals are contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19 and demanding payment for that treatment.
  • Charity scams: People are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
  • Phishing scams: People posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
  • App scams: People are creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.
  • Investment scams: People are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.

Earlier this week, two Oregon federal prosecutors were tapped to lead investigations into financial fraud or civil rights violations stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.

To report such schemes, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by visiting www.IC3.gov. If there’s an immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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