FBI warning people of scammers trying to take advantage of coronavirus pandemic

FBI warning people of scammers trying to take advantage of COVID-19 pandemic

BOSTON — It’s the last thing anyone wants to deal with in a time like this, on top of the challenges so many are facing. Federal law enforcement authorities want you to know that criminals are out in full force looking to prey on people in their weakest moments.

“It’s a crisis such as this where scammers will really look to sink into and exploit and leverage and prey upon people’s fears and anxiety,” said Joe Bonavolonta, a special agent for the FBI’s Boston Division.

As people across the world are searching for promise that this pandemic will soon pass there are those among us searching for opportunities to strike when so many are down.

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“It is a despicable act especially during these times,” Bonavolonta said. “Trying to take advantage of people that may be in a vulnerable state.”

Bonavolonta says the unprecedented crisis has stirred up the perfect storm for scammers.

“So many other types of businesses shut down, schools are shut down,” he said. “You have many more people that are online searching for answers, searching for information related to this, and that plays right into the hands of these scammers.”

From fake emails posing as the CDC offering phony information to made-up charities, to schemes offering free travel refunds, Bonavolonta says the FBI has been inundated with hundreds of new complaints describing creative scams targeting your personal information, some even center around false promises about government money.

“If anything sounds too good to be true the best mantra to live by is it most likely is,” Bonavolonta said.

To avoid being tricked the FBI says you should never open attachments or click links from senders you don’t recognize. Also make sure you verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser, and check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link.

Lastly, the FBI says don’t give your password, social security number, date of birth or any other personal information in response to an email or robocall.

Bonavolonta told Boston 25 News that teams have been assembled in the FBI’s Boston office to investigate all the complaints coming in. He also warned people to beware of scammers coming to your door as they look for new ways to dupe people during a vulnerable time.

Anyone who feels they’ve been victimized by one of these scams is encouraged to reach out online to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also call the FBI Boston Division main line to file a complaint.