Criminal justice officials are warning people to be on the lookout for scams related to COVID-19.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Secretary of State Kim Wyman said in a Friday news release that residents wanting to make charitable donations during the novel coronavirus pandemic should be wary of schemes aiming to exploit their good nature.
“In this unprecedented situation, many of us are searching for ways to help,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Unfortunately, scammers look for ways to prey on Washingtonians’ good will. Washingtonians should know that my office is on the lookout for individuals preying on our generosity during this crisis. If you see any suspicious or fraudulent solicitations, file a complaint with my office.”
Wyman warned that scammers may use high-pressure tactics in attempts to force people to make donations.
“Take your time and ask the right questions to make sure they are a legitimate organization before you give them your money,” Wyman said.
Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said officers have not taken any reports regarding coronavirus-related scams, but they are aware they’re circulating. Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said in an email that his deputies also had not taken any reports.
The FBI office in Oregon said it is seeing a rise in such scams. The agency said scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal people’s money, personal information, or both, and detailed several scams that agents are detecting.
People should watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other organizations offering information on the virus. Do not click unrecognizable website links or attachments, the FBI said.
“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,” the federal agency warned.
Phishing emails asking people to verify personal information in order to get an economic stimulus check from the government are also fake. While talk of stimulus checks has been in the news, government agencies aren’t sending unsolicited emails seeking private information.
Phishing emails may also claim to be related to charitable contributions, general financial relief, airline carrier refunds, and fake cures, vaccines and testing kits.
The FBI said people should be extra cautious when it comes to counterfeit treatments or equipment claiming to prevent, diagnose or cure COVID-19. The counterfeit products include sanitizers, N95 respirator masks, goggles, face shields, protective gowns and gloves, among other items.
More information on unapproved or counterfeit personal protective equipment can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh. There is also information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website, www.fda.gov, and the Environmental Protection Agency website, www.epa.gov. Report counterfeit products at www.ic3.gov and to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at www.iprcenter.gov.
The Federal Trade Commission and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products claiming to treat coronavirus. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils and colloidal silver, the Federal Trade Commission said.
According to the federal regulators, the companies have no evidence to back up their claims, as required by law. The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help keep scammers at bay:
• Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from fake coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from its call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
• Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources.
• Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowd-funding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card or by wiring money, don’t do it.