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FBI warns of scammers targeting coronavirus fears

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Posted at 12:40 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 15:40:11-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — FBI San Diego says scammers are using a range of methods to steal money and personal data from people, leveraging fears during the coronavirus pandemic to do so.

Fake emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or government offering information about COVID-19 may only deliver malware to computers to steal info or hold computers ransom, the FBI said. Other websites may also claim the same.

The FBI also warned of phishing emails regarding the government stimulus checks many Americans are expecting. The emails could be seeking personal data in order to deliver the stimulus relief, only to steal that data. Some phishing emails may involve charitable contributions, general financial relief, airline carrier refunds, fake cures and vaccines, or fake testing kits, the FBI says.

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Authorities also warn of counterfeit coronavirus treatments or equipment, such as N95 masks or personal protection equipment (PPE). Scammers may reach out to sell products claiming to protect individuals from the virus or even treat or cure it.

“We want to assure the public that the FBI continues our important work in protecting the American people, specifically those in San Diego and Imperial Counties, despite these unprecedented times," said Omer Meisel, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Division of the FBI.

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The FBI recommends individuals do not open attachments or click any links from unfamiliar email addresses or messages. Internet users should also avoid giving any personal information of any kind in response to emails or robocalls.

Users can stay on top of potential scams by recognizing legitimate website addresses, misspelled web domains, or suspicious messaging.

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Anyone who believes they are a victim of an internet scam can report cyber crimes on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call the San Diego FBI at 858-320-1800.