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FBI warns of wave of cyber crime amid COVID-19 pandemic

Officials say they have seen an uptick in phishing scams and people claiming to sell products diagnosing or preventing COVID-19

Adam Ferrise
Advance Ohio Media

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The FBI on Thursday warned of an increase in scams related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scammers, in some cases, pretended to be from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from fake charities seeking to help people suffering during the pandemic and from people offering quick access to coronavirus economic stimulus checks.

Cleveland FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said in a statement that along with proper hygiene to protect against the spread of coronavirus that people should also practice “cyber hygiene.”

The statement said to no open attachments or links in emails from unrecognized senders, don’t provide personal information like social security numbers and financial information during robocalls or in emails and to verify web addresses of legitimate websites.

Be wary of emails that claim they are from the CDC or other organizations claiming to be sharing coronavirus information, including websites and apps claiming to track Covid-19 cases worldwide.

The emails contain links that infect computers with malware that hackers use to steal personal information, or lock computers and demand ransom payments in exchange for unlocking the computers.

Fake emails are sent to people asking them to verify personal information to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. No government agencies are sending unsolicited emails seeking private information, the FBI said.

Other emails where scammer target people’s personal information include solicitations of money for fake charities, for general financial relief, airline refunds, fake cures and vaccines, fake testing and counterfeit treatments and equipment.

The FBI also warned people to be wary of anyone claiming to sell products that prevent, treat, diagnose or cure Covid-19. Counterfeit personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, goggles, face shields, protective gowns and gloves.