TAMPA, Fla. -- Cyber criminals may be looking to exploit the coronavirus pandemic through scams to take your money, according to federal law enforcement officials.
They say they’ve received complaints around the country and in the Tampa Bay area.
“We’ve never seen anything like this in our country and for fraudsters to take advantage of the current climate and the current fears of people and that’s why the FBI works with our local state and federal partners because we want to address this threat,” said Shannon Muldrow, a primary relief supervisor with a white collar crime squad in the FBI.
The FBI is warning people about several types of fraud, including fake CDC emails offering information on the virus. They’re also warning about phishing emails asking the recipient to verify personnel information in order to receive stimulus checks from the government, or related to charitable contributions, financial relief, airline carrier refunds, fake cures and vaccines and fake testing kits.
“In this case telemarketers are calling people saying that they have COVID19 test kits. And they can expedite delivery of those kits to that person if only they give them their medicare number social security number medicaid number some sort to link to their insurance program,” said Ryan Lynch, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Field Office for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services OIG.
Lynch said complaints are similar to those they received in genetic testing kit fraud schemes.
“It’s really very disconcerting because we don’t want people to think that they’re getting test kits if they’re not really getting genuine test kits and we also don’t want people to be giving up their medicare or medicaid information,” said Lynch.
Muldrow said they’re seeing telemarketing and robocalls specifically trying to obtain medicare, medicaid and social security numbers. Muldrow said the fraud may involve test kits, senior care packages including hand sanitizer and fake vaccines that don’t really exist.
“They say they’re calling on behalf of the administration for President Trump or Vice President Pence and that all medicare beneficiaries will be receiving this products which is not true. They’re not going to be receiving the products, they’re trying to hook our seniors into providing their medicare numbers because once they have their medicare numbers they’re able to commit frauds,” she said.
She also warns about fraud related to telemedicine.
“Now that we’ve moved into telemedicine and they’ve relaxed the rules allowing telemedicine you’re also gonna see frauds where people represent that they’re calling from your doctors office,” she said.
Officials said to prevent these frauds, do not give out personal information or any numbers and be sure to report it. Do not open attachments or links in emails from unrecognized senders, very the information is from a legitimate source, do not provide personnel information, logins or financial data in an email repose, visit websites by putting the domain into the browser.
To report suspected fraud or scams call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline: 1-866-720-5721 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.