As tension runs high with the COVID-19 outbreak, there have been reports of scams using fear of the virus to gain valuable information.
The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers of hackers posing as reputable companies to gain trust in time of uncertainty.
The most recent scam comes as an email containing a link that holds ransomware that would install and lock you out of your computer, giving hackers access.
“There’s a lot of email advisories coming out from different stores, where they are talking about their plan of action for the coronavirus or the COVID-19 response,” Detective Jeremy Peters with the St. Joseph Police Department said. “A lot of times there are hyperlinks to their websites or to flash sales in the email.”
Peters warns citizens to make sure the link is taking them to a legitimate business website and and not a phishing website.
It’s not uncommon to see scams involving a major problem the public is facing.
“Really any situation that comes up, with this being the hot topic right now ... they’ll be trying to collect money for health facilities or donations. Or maybe they’re trying to pose as a health-care provider or something to that effect as well,” Peters said.
If you are unsure of an email or link, Peters advises going to that company’s website or calling an actual listed number.
“Make sure you’re dealing with the actual company or that it is a reputable business that you can verify,” Peters said.
Though Peters suggests following normal internet safety procedures, he warns that scams might happen more often at this time.
“Right now everybody is at home and they’re on the internet more frequently than normal. So, there will be people that will try to take advantage of that,” Peters said.
To report a scam, call the St. Joseph Police Department at 816-271-4702 or submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.