Beware of Scams and Hacking Attempts
Whenever there is a health crisis, scammers will find ways to cheat people out of their money. During the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are using robocalls, social media posts, and emails to take advantage of fear, anxiety, and confusion about COVID-19. They sell things that don’t work, charge money for things that are free, and steal personal information. Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is in Los Angeles County, scammers are targeting local residents with new, vaccine-related schemes. Beware!
COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed in Los Angeles County in a fair and transparent way. If someone offers to sell you a chance to get vaccinated before it is your turn, it’s a scam.
- Vaccine is only being offered to healthcare workers and people who live in long-term care facilities (for example nursing homes) right now.
- Essential workers who cannot work from home are likely to be offered the vaccine next because they are at high risk of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus. Older adults, and adults with medical conditions might also be next because they are more likely to become very sick if they get COVID-19.
- Children under 16 years of age will not be offered vaccine in the near future. The vaccines are not allowed to be given to this age group.
- As more vaccine is available it will be offered to everyone. This will likely take months. Vaccine may not be offered to the general public until Spring/Summer 2021.
- Information about how to get the vaccine will be posted on the Public Health’s COVID-19 webpage (ph.lacounty.gov/Coronavirus/vaccine/) when vaccine is available for different groups.
- If you have questions, talk to your doctor. Call 2-1-1 or visit the 211LA website if you need help finding a doctor.
The Department of Justice has received reports of:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
Criminals will likely continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home though a number of platforms. Go to:
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Report it to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
- If it’s a cyber scam, submit your complaint through https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
For more information, visit justice.gov/coronavirus
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau Emerging Cyber Trends Team has seen an uptick in fake emails, texts and phishing scams related to the COVID-19 emergency.
Criminals use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network. These phishing emails often appear to be from familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know. If you click on a link, scammers/attackers can install ransomware or other programs that can lock you out of your data.
Protect your computer and electronic devices by:
- Keeping your software up to date and by using security software
- Your cell phone should be set to update software automatically
- Your accounts should have multi-factor authentication
- Your data should be regularly backed up, and the backup should be taken offline
- Fake charities: When a major health event like the Coronavirus happens, you might be looking for ways to help. Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving. When you give, pay safely by credit card never by gift card or wire transfer. The FBI has also released the below information related to cyber enabled crimes related to the COVID-19 emergency:
- Fake CDC Emails: Watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other organizations claiming to offer information on the virus. Do not click links or open attachments you do not recognize.
- Phishing Emails. Look out for phishing emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money.
- Counterfeit Treatments or Equipment. Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator asks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves. More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh.”
The following tips are the FBI’s recommendations for good cyber hygiene and security measures. By remembering these tips, you can protect yourself and help stop criminal activity:
- Do not open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don’t recognize.
- Do not provide your username, password, date of birth, social security number, financial data, or other personal information in response to an email or robocall.
- Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
- Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (for example, an address that should end in a ".gov" ends in .com" instead).”