Police Warn of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams | Not the Cure You’re Looking For

A variety of scams on the Internet where individuals claim they have a vaccine or herbal remedy are raising plenty of red flags, warned South Pasadena Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Richard Lee

SouthPasadenan.com News | The South Pasadena Police Department offers a downloadable guide helping citizens deal with different types of common scams

With the novel coronavirus spreading, so are the scams surrounding the outbreak, warns the South Pasadena Police Department.

“There have been several types of scams where individuals claim they have a vaccine or herbal remedy,” said South Pasadena Police Department Crime Prevention Officer Richard Lee in an email.  “Unfortunately, as of right now the FDA says there are no approved vaccines or drugs to treat or prevent the virus.”

Like any scam, should you get an email or a “pop-up” window while on the computer, explained Lee, “don’t click on any links,” he said.  “You could download, systematic with the times, a computer virus.

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Other tips from Lee to remember:

  • Be cautious of any email claiming to be from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Unless you subscribed, how did they get your email address.  Go to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html) website directly to obtain information.
  • Ignore offers for vaccinations.  Currently, there are no vaccines, pills, herbal medicine, etc. to treat, prevent or cure the virus.
  • Visit the Federal Trade Commission website to keep up-to-date regarding scams on the COVID-19 (consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing).

In addition to recommendations from the South Pasadena Police Department in fending off scams, Alan Ehrlich, a member of the city’s Public Safety Commission who is seeking a seat on the City Council in November’s election, all national news outlets reported several days ago of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizure of what appeared to be fake C-19 home test kits at the Los Angeles International Airport.

“The package had come from the United Kingdom and contained various vials that manifested as pure water, but upon inspection contained white liquid and were labeled “Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)” and “Virus1 Test Kit,” according to a statement from the CBP.

“Most likely, these would have ended up on the internet or for sale in unsuspecting communities,” said Ehrlich in an email.  “There are no ‘home test kits’ available at this time. The only C-19 test kits approved by the FDA are being sent to health care professionals only.”

Scammers are using phishing emails to profit from the coronavirus outbreak. According to Norton Life Lock, “The overwhelming amount of news coverage surrounding the novel coronavirus has created a new danger – phishing attacks looking to exploit public fears about the sometimes – deadly virus. Cybercriminals send emails claiming to be from legitimate organizations with information about the coronavirus.”

The email messages, noted Norton Life Lock, might ask a person to open an attachment to see the latest statistics. If you click on the attachment or embedded link, you’re likely to download malicious software onto your device.

The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently released some additional advice to fight off cybercriminals: “Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes. Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts or calls related to COVID-19.”

The CSCI insists: “Never reveal personal or financial information in an email, or respond to requests for it.”

Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence and NBC News/MSNBC analyst, in an article, indicates people are vulnerable when living in fear, noting, “Never let a perfectly good crisis go to waste; that’s the mantra of many a skilled con artist. Twenty-five years in the FBI has taught me we’re about to see this fraudster philosophy run almost as rampant as the virus that inspires it. And just as we need to take Preventive measures to ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus’ growth, so too must we all work to contain the crooks and cons who will prey on the most vulnerable among us. As with the virus, our government, our companies and our families can act now to minimize the misery later.”

Visit the South Pasadena website on COVID-19 (southpasadenaca.gov/residents/covid-19-coronavirus-information) and SouthPasadenan.com to obtain current information on how the virus is affecting South Pasadena.