Scams related to coronavirus on the rise, FBI warns

Americans are taking in information on COVID-19 by the minute and FBI agents warn the fear and unknowns around the virus create the perfect opportunity for cyber criminals.

FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Mike Herrington says reports of internet crime have been on the rise since February.

"We've definitely seen a spike in activity over the past month or so," Herrington said.

Other law enforcement agencies like the Los Angeles and Orange County sheriff's departments are seeing the same trend. They warn residents on Twitter about suspicious calls, texts, emails, apps or requests to help fraudulent charities - and with good reason.

Related: FBI arrests SoCal man for alleged coronavirus cure scam

Herrington said California, especially the Los Angeles area was traditionally one of the heaviest hit by cyber scams during emergency situations.

"We have the highest number of victims, the highest number of perpetrators of this type of activity and the highest dollar losses of basically any area in the United States for previous scams so I think we can see a consistent footprint on this one," Herrington said.

Herrington said the primary tool for these con artists is phishing. In this scenario you'll get an email appearing to be from a known company like your employer, bank or the government, but something is usually off - maybe one letter in the email address or the information they want from you.

"Don't give up personal or financial information either from an unsolicited call or unsolicited email and if possible don't click on links or open files from unsolicited emails regardless. If it is an email that says it's coming from the CDC, instead of clicking on the link in the email, just go straight to the CDC website," Herrington said.

Herrington said cyber criminals want to prey on your emotions and ask you to act fast usually to get your cash.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

You're better off contacting the company directly like you have in the past and reporting the suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Anyone wanting to file a complaint with the FBI can go to the agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center. You'll be asked for some contact information, details on how you were victimized and you can also file a report with your local or state law enforcement agencies.
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