Scammers aren’t distancing themselves from crime during pandemic

Crooks look to cash in on coronavirus fears; here’s how to stop them

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Scammers are using fears about the coronavirus to take advantage of Americans.

The Better Business Bureau says it is getting complaints about people claiming they paid for face masks online but never received them. Others say they paid for but never received disinfectant wipes.

Now, the BBB says scammers are also trying to get personal information for things like coronavirus disability or offers for compensation.

Experts say the crooks are looking for easy prey, like those who are socially isolated.

“When you’re isolated from people, you don’t have the day-to-day contact with them, you may not feel comfortable in approaching friends or neighbors for advice about something that’s presented to you," said Tom Stephens, president of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida. "And also the fear of am I going to be able to feed my family next week? Am I going to be able to pay the rent? Am I going to be able to pay the electric bill? That sort of thing. Especially for people that work in service industry jobs. All of that is prime territory for some type of scam, including employment scams.”

Stephens also warns against phishing.

Just two days ago, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office posted a message to its Facebook page, saying security experts have seen the worst spike in email scams in years related to the coronavirus.

Security experts say a spike in email scams linked to coronavirus is the worst they have seen in years. Phishing emails...

Posted by PBSO - Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Sunday, March 22, 2020

“A phishing attempt is one of two things: either an attempt to get personal information, like Social Security numbers, credit card information, etc. -- so that the scammer can either build a fake ID or set up a fake credit card to use as your number -- or an attempt to download a virus or even a ransomware into your computer system so that you’ll have to pay them to start your system again,” Stephens said.

The BBB also says several South Florida law enforcement agencies are issuing alerts about people dressed in white lab coats and masks impersonating Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers.

The imposters are reportedly knocking on doors and offering free COVID-19 tests.

The CDC is not sending people door-to-door to test for COVID-19.

If a CDC impersonator shows up at your door, do not let them in and call 911 immediately.

You can report scams to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker or you can call 904-721-2288.

It’s important to remember that agencies like the Social Security Administration and the World Health Organization will not contact you by phone, email, or update information via social media posts.

Stay alert and vigilant.

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