Federal Law Enforcement Agencie Warn About COVID-19 Scams

These fraudsters sell products which purport to cure anyone of the coronavirus.

 

Baltimore, Md (KM)  During any national emergency, such as a hurricane or other disaster, scammers are always out there looking for victims. US Attorney for Maryland, Robert Hur, says the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. “The combination of real uncertainty a combined with federal funds flowing that kind of yield to a perfect storms of fraudsters  seeing a real opportunity here,” he says.

These types scams have been reported nationwide and Maryland is no exception, says Hur.. They include websites which advertise bogus cures or vaccines for the coronavirus, or fraudulent charities.

Some even claim to be from  federal government agencies, claiming they have relief money for you. They also have websites set up which look like a federal agency’s website. . “When they tell you click here, what happens is they might download malware on your computer. What that means is you’re giving hackers access to your computer where they get your password, or Social Security number or your bank account number,” Hur says. “Or they might direct you   to a link where they say you got to type in your Social Security number, or your date of birth,  or your bank account number so we can give your funds.”

Scammers have also been known to call or send e-mails, claiming to be from an agency such as the IRS. “If you get a phone call or your get a text message from someone purporting to be from the IRS, it’s a fake; it’s a scam,” he says. “The IRS, the federal government, is never going to ask you by e-mail or phone, for your Social Security number, or your bank account number, or your driver’s license number. Those are scammers. Those are fraudsters.”

Most federal agencies will contact you by the US Postal Service if they need to reach you.

If you or  family members are victims of a scam, Hur says in many instances, you may never see your money again. But he says federal law enforcement agencies will try their best to shut down these fraudsters, and return your money. Those who believe they’ve been victimized by a scam can call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721, or send an e-mail to diaster@leo.gov. If it’s a cyber scam, you can submit your complaint through the FBI’s website at https://www.ic3.gov. Any suspicious e-mails can be sent to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

Hur says most victims of fraud tend to be the elderly because many spend a lot of time on computers. If you’re an elderly person and believe you’re a victim of a fraud, call 1-833-FRAUD–11 (833-372-8311).

“Sometimes people are tempted, I think, to get in a  discussion with or become angry with and start yelling at people making those calls,” Hur says. “Those are people who are in the scamming and fraudster business for a living. So don’t engage. Just hang up and/or click delete.”

 

By Kevin McManus