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FBI warns about virus-related scams

From job losses to shrinking 401k funds, the COVID-19 virus already is hurting people financially.

Scammers want to make it worse.

The Cleveland office of the FBI issued an advisory about several potential scams.

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene called it, “Just criminals being creative.”

The risks include emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other organizations offering information about the coronavirus. The emails can include links that will install malware onto computers and allow the theft of personal information.

Other phishing emails may ask for personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from government.

“Never give out personal information,” Greene said. “A government agency is never going to ask you for that. If they’re contacting you, they already have your information.”

According to the FBI, phishing emails also could claim to be related to charitable contributions, general financial relief, airline carrier refunds, fake cures and vaccines, fake testing kits, and counterfeit treatments and equipment.

Niles police Chief Jay Holland said, “If any resident has a question about the validity of a phone call, email or letter received, they can call our dispatch and ask to speak to an officer who can advise them.”

Neither Greene nor Holland said their departments have received any of these kinds of complaints yet, but Greene said, “I have no doubt these scams are going to increase.”

The FBI’s tips for good cyber hygiene include:

• 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 the web browser.

• Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (for example, an address that should end in a “.gov” ends in “.com” instead).

Those who suspect they are the victim of an internet scam or cybercrime should visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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