Be wary of would-be scammers


In these difficult times when there are so many people helping others, unfortunately, there are crooks at work scamming unsuspecting victims in the name of the novel coronavirus.

Despite these scams, there are great acts of humanitarianism and it’s pretty amazing.

On March 25, Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio along with Ohio National Guard soldiers distributed food through a “no-touch” drive-thru distribution at Black River Landing in downtown Lorain.

And the Community Foundation of Lorain County recently provided $250,000 to Second Harvest for its food pantries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But back to the morons who are trying to take advantage of others, especially the vulnerable — including senior citizens — with these online scams.

Some of the people are victimized because they are simply trying to help others.

Unfortunately, others are scammed because they see that great windfall.

Either way, the scammers are wrong.

We have to ask, do they even have a conscience?

Probably not.

But that’s where our family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even the government has tried to lend advice to be careful of these crooks.

These scammers are immoral by leveraging the novel coronavirus pandemic to steal money and personal information from residents.

The FBI Cleveland Office is telling people to protect themselves and to research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.

The FBI also advises to be on the lookout for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other organizations claiming to offer information on the virus.

Fraudsters use links in emails to deliver malware to computers to steal personal information or to lock computers and demand payment.

And just be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide.

The criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received.

In recent days, the World Health Organization and other authorities began working to debunk spurious claims about possible cures.

The agency says criminals are increasingly posing as WHO officials in calls and phishing emails to swipe information or money.

Fortunately, the United Nations also set up a website to help prevent fraud.

They include false assertions that silver, bleach and garlic could protect against the coronavirus, or that bananas prevent it.

People need to know that there are no cures for COVID-19, so they need to immediately delete those types of emails.

Also, look out for phishing emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government.

Government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send money.

Phishing emails may also claim to be related to charitable contributions, general financial relief, airline carrier refunds, fake cures and vaccines, fake testing kits and counterfeit treatments or equipment.

So, be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19.

And it’s not just in Northeast Ohio.

The Associated Press reported March 25 that police in Bowie, Md., investigated reports of a man wearing an orange vest and blue surgical mask who approached people at two homes claiming to inspect for coronavirus.

And the man actually entered one home before a resident confronted him.

That’s scary.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined 33 senators March 27 urging Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons to protect seniors from coronavirus-related scams.

In response to the recent increase in these scams, the letter to Simons calls on the Commission to better inform seniors about coronavirus scams and assist victims in understanding their recourse options to ensure that seniors are protected from those attempting to financially exploit them during the pandemic.

We agree.

At this time of heightened public fears, the senators wrote that reports have highlighted that scams pertaining to the coronavirus are increasing, and that seniors — arguably the most vulnerable population to both the coronavirus and bad actors — are targeted with calls telling them that the COVID-19 vaccination is ready when no such treatment currently exists.

The letter states that other reports have outlined how scammers have gone to the homes of elderly people to administer fake tests while also charging them and obtaining their social security numbers.

Although the Federal Trade Commission has sent warning letters to seven sellers of fraudulent COVID-19 treatments, the senators are concerned that further action is needed to protect the financial well-being of seniors — who lose an estimated $3 billion annually from financial scams.

These tricksters are all around us.

Be careful.

— The Lorain Morning Journal, March 28; Online: https://bit.ly/2QUauT2