Week of April 5, 2020
A weekly column by Police Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley Police Department
A variety of “scams” are taking place during this COVID-19 crisis. These are intended to take advantage of people’s panic or sense of generosity at this uncertain time. The FBI has recently issued an important advisory on these issues that I would like to share with you.
As has been mentioned in the past, telephone, internet, and mail scams have been occurring for many years. With advances in technology, these occur with greater frequency. Those responsible prey on unsuspecting individuals and obtain either quick cash or other personal data, such as bank account numbers. This Corona Virus situation simply adds another component. The FBI warns you to protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus. Some examples are donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online, or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.
The FBI warns us to watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other organizations offering information on the virus. Do not click links or open attachments you do not recognize. Fraudsters can use these links in emails to deliver malware to your computer designed to steal personal information or lock your computer and demand payment. Be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide. Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received. Look out for phishing emails (fraudulent messages purporting to be from reputable companies) asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. 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. Phishing emails may also claim to be related to: Charitable contributions, General financial relief, Airline carrier refunds, Fake cures and vaccines, Fake testing kits, etc. They warn to be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The FBI reminds you to always use good cybersecurity measures. By remembering the following tips, you can protect yourself and help stop criminal activity: Do not open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don’t recognize; Do not provide your username, password, date of birth, social security number, financial data, or other personal information in response to an email or robocall; Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser; Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (for example, an address that should end in a “.gov” ends in .com” instead). If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cybercrime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. More information can be found at https://www.ic3.gov/media/2020/200320.aspx
Thanks again for your questions and comments. Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St. Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.