Whenever people are faced with desperate times, there are always those looking to take advantage. The present COVID-19 situation is no different, which means people need to be diligently on the lookout for deals and offers that sound too good to be true.
Federal law enforcement has warned in recent weeks of a rise in fraud schemes as the outbreak spreads.
The FBI’s San Diego office said at the beginning of April on Twitter that scammers are texting about offers of “$100 goodies” or a “$100 bounty” from Costco, saying it’s part of a COVID-19 “stimulus package” for the store’s “loyal customers.”
Lincoln County’s Sheriff Kerry Lee warns the same may happen here and suggested people should do the following if they are contacted by a scammer on a social media format or phone call.
“If you receive an unsolicited text message, phone call or social media seeking to gather either personal banking information, do not comply. Instead, report the incident to www.phishing.IRS.gov. The IRS is not going to contact you over the phone asking for your personal and/or banking information.”
Another key point Lee made was about the name of the government checks. “They are officially called an Economic Impact Payment, not ‘stimulus payment.’ Listen very carefully to what name is being used.”
San Diego FBI Special Agent Davene Butler said, “The FBI is warning the public that Costco is NOT texting [or using social media platforms] the public or its customers to provide a ‘stimulus check,’ ‘freebies,’ or a ‘stimulus package.’ These messages usually contain a malicious link involving malware, ransomware or other fraudulent methods to steal identity, financial or other personal information. Do NOT click on the link.”
Another scam involves emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other organizations offering information on the virus.
There also are websites and apps that claim to track COVID-19 cases worldwide, but these are attempting to steal personal information and money instead. “Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received,” the FBI said.
“While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money,” the agency said.
Sheriff Lee said, “If you receive an email, text message, website or social media request, look carefully at the address where it came from. It must have the address IRS.gov to be legitimate.”
Anyone who believes they have been the victim of an internet scam or cybercrime, or wants to report suspicious activity, is asked to file a complaint on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.