FBI warns of scammers taking advantage of coronavirus fears

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As if it wasn’t already enough dealing with the coronavirus, the FBI has a warning: watch out for scammers trying to take advantage of people during these trying times.

Often times, scams target the underprivileged or the elderly. Ones involving the coronavirus have been targeting just about everybody.

The FBI is warning everyone to think before you answer, think before you click and consider the source.

Jeremy Baker, assistant special agent in charge at the Memphis FBI field office, said scammers are taking advantage of the hundreds of millions of Americans alarmed by the coronavirus and concerned by the unknown.

“These crises bring out the best in humanity, thankfully, but also the worst in humanity,” Baker said. “Watch out for robocalls pushing phony coronavirus-related products. There could be attempts to sell people products or equipment or even so-called treatments, and people need to be very leery if they are getting phone calls like that.”

Special agent Baker said unfortunately, they have already seen versions of malware transmitted through phones and email. 

Fake links asking for your private information could be asking for false charitable contributions, fake testing kits, airline carrier refunds or general financial relief.

While there’s talk of economic stimulus checks, the FBI said government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money.

“You have just the concerned bystander or citizen that wants to know more about this, and something might come through on their phone or email that says, ‘Click here to see where the coronavirus has spread,’ and then unwittingly what they’re doing is they’re clicking on something that installs a Trojan on their phone which could steal sensitive data,” Baker said. “We’re very concerned about that.”>

Baker suggests using credible websites like the CDC to get crucial information, as well as ic3.gov, where the FBI has made a list of fraud schemes to look out for.

Those caught scamming people like this could potentially face time in federal prison.

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