LOS ANGELES - You know the old saying that If it's too good to be true it probably is. Such is the case with scammers trying to sell you a cure for COVID-19.
The FBI’s assistant special agent in charge of the cyber division is Mike Herrington. He says, “Scammers are out there trying to take advantage of the situation.” He says it all started in February and has been on the uptick.
The fake ads, with phony celebrity endorsements, include actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson. Both have been diagnosed with COVID19. The NBA’s Rudy Gobert is another giving a fake endorsement for a CBD product the ads try to sell.
Herrington says, “We’ve seen a big spike in this type of activity in the past month or so. Basically, we were seeing nothing before February and already we’ve had 100s of complaints at our Internet Crime Complaint Center. ”By using celebs, news network and TV show logos the FBI says the scammers are trying to give their pitch credibility.
He says, "They’ll do whatever they can to instill trust to make you respond. They’ll present themselves as trusted sources whether a celebrity endorsing whatever they’re offering.”
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Herrington says they are investigating and trying to develop cases against the perpetrators.
He also says for those suspicious about an unsolicited ad for a coronavirus cure "They need to check with an authoritative source.” That can be the CDC website or your own doctor.
“So, people just need to be on the lookout,” says Herrington. "Be suspicious and if you don’t know where it's coming from then don’t trust them. don’t click on the link … don’t open the file.” He says that could get you a bad case of malware or ransomware.
And, as for tips:
1) Stay away from unsolicited emails
2) Stay away from anything asking for money in advance
3) Common sense will be a big help in spotting frauds
If you need to file a complaint with the FBI or learn how to protect yourself go to www.ic3.gov.