Law enforcement is alerting businesses and the public that during the ongoing COVID-19 federal and state emergencies and stay-at-home orders to be extremely vigilant about email and internet scams being perpetrated by wrongdoers trying to capitalize on the scare.
According to the FBI:
“Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them … protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus.”
These warnings are especially pertinent when solicitations from charities, other non-profits, or crowdfunding campaigns may not actually be who or what they claim to be. Similarly, e-commerce shopping where furnishing personal information to receive products or other benefits may prove perilous.
Authorities also have identified fraudsters posing as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations purporting to possess important health information about the virus. Some domains are actually offering the public fake cures and vaccines, as well as phony COVID-19 testing kits. The concern here is that these websites are hackers imbedding links within the messages that contain malware designed to steal personal information or lock the victim’s computer until the “ransom” is paid.
Following passage of the $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), scammers are already soliciting the public by emails asking to confirm personal information to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. Authorities are warning the public to distrust these directives, believing they are sophisticated phishing schemes designed to invade computes, hard drives, and mail servers.
The FBI has reiterated:
“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.”
In this difficult period of hospital/ICU overutilization and dangerously low inventories of PPE and other medical equipment, the healthcare industry must be especially wary of vendor fraud when it comes to the purchase and payment for essential hospital equipment. Hospitals are urged not to do business with vendors or product brokers unknown to them. Vendors offering unusual payment terms, last-minute price changes, excuses about shipment delays, or the source of the product are telltale signs of fraud.
Employers, employees, and the general public are encouraged to report suspicious activity of healthcare and related vendor fraud to the FBI at: tios.fbi.gov; ic3.gov, or email@example.com.
If your institution or company is the victim of a teleconference hijacking, or any cyber-crime, the White Collar & Government Enforcement practice group at Jackson Lewis is available to provide guidance and assistance, and to interface with law enforcement as necessary.