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FBI warns of new scams related to COVID-19

Everything from fake airline refunds to emails pretending to be from the CDC

FORT WORTH, Texas — The FBI is warning the public about new COVID-19 scams.

“This is really kind of a new twist on an old crime,” Matt DeSarno, the Special Agent In Charge of the FBI’s regional office in Dallas, said.

Across the U.S., the FBI has seen a surge in coronavirus-related attacks, including phishing scams disguised as fake CDC emails, emails from charities that don’t exist and fake airline refunds.

“Scammers usually prey on anxiety and fear,” DeSarno said. “Those cyber criminals perceive a large percentage of the population to be vulnerable.”

They’ve also seen a lot of scams that involve ads for fake testing kits, mask that aren’t authentic or don’t exist at all and emails that appear to be related to the government stimulus checks. Computers can get infected with viruses or locked for ransom.

“When a victim clicks on a link, an unknown link like that, from a scammer, bad things start to happen,” DeSarno said. “We have real victims, real money.”

Desarno said more people at home and online is also part of the problem.

“That creates a target rich environment,” he said.

The FBI’s advice revolves around four main tips:

  • When in doubt don’t click on links you’re not sure about
  • Don’t give personal information out over email
  • Go directly to news and federal sites for information
  • If you’re a victim or attempted victim, report it to FBI

“If we are as diligent about our cyber hygiene as we are about our personal hygiene right now, it will make it very difficult for our adversaries to steal our money,” DeSarno said.

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