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Beware of coronavirus scams

Scammers have wasted no time trying to take advantage of the fear surrounding COVID-19 and the economic downturn.

“Senior citizens are a prime target,” said Brad Hilliard, spokesman for Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services. “People need to keep their guard up for those type of things.”

Both the FBI and the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation are warning people to be wary of online scams that could introduce malware into your computer or bilk you out of money.

Hilliard said scam calls and emails are nothing new, but scammers have shifted their emphasis to focus on fears surrounding the pandemic.

Some scams claim to have a top-secret vaccine, miracle cure or offer government assistance or economic relief. These false claims are intended to scare people into sharing their personal information.

Hilliard said these offers are basically snake oil, preying on people’s worries about getting the virus.

“They’re using the opportunity to use the coronavirus when they want more information from people who maybe have their guard down a little bit,” Hilliard said.

In some cases, scammers seek credit card or account information and then attempt to siphon off money.

In other cases, scammers have pretended to be involved in the economic stimulus package or federal economic relief to trick people into divulging financial information.

State officials recommend Oregonians not open emails, click on links or open attachments from anyone they don’t recognize. These links typically will be attached to an email claiming a cure or promising economic relief.

Also, don’t share personal or financial information with anyone you don’t know.

Hilliard said that if an offer seems too good to be true, you should be suspicious.

One scam that’s making the rounds offers downloads to view coronavirus maps, but the download can actually install malware onto your electronic device.

No download is required to see coronavirus maps. One such map is available from Johns Hopkins University at https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.

Another scam attempts to convince people to invest in a product with a guaranteed or high rate of return, usually for companies that produce medical supplies, vaccines or treatments.

The FBI has warned the health care community to be wary of anyone offering medical equipment or other items related to the virus.

Some of these scams have unusual payment terms, last-minute price changes, last-minute excuses for shipment delays and aren’t clear about the location of the supply.

The FBI has cautioned the medical community to pay extra attention to any new vendors or unidentified third-party brokers that are offering supplies.

“Scammers continue to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to steal money through a variety of means,” according to Beth Anne Steele, spokeswoman for the FBI.

The FBI urges everyone to be cautious about anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizers, personal protective equipment, including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full-face shields, protective gowns and gloves.

More information about unapproved or counterfeit medical supplies can be found at cdc.gov/niosh

If you believe you have been a victim of a COVID-19 scam, see justice.gov/coronavirus to report it to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneA Walmart customer wears a mask while shopping in Medford.