Police warn: Like death and taxes, count on scammers to try to take advantage of a bad situation

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In life, there are three things you can count on—death, taxes…and scammers trying to take advantage of a bad situation. The current coronavirus is no exception, Law Enforcement Today has learned.

In Fayetteville, Ark., a scam is targeting the elderly community in the northwest corner of the state. An older female said that two men came to the woman’s door, representing themselves as being from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They told her that they wanted to test her for COVID-19 since she was older and in a higher risk category.

 

“They swabbed her nose, and basically told her that her test came back negative,” said Vice President training officer at First Security Bank, Jay Crutz. “She was required to pay them, she paid them $50, so she gave them a check. They also got her social security number and date of birth.”

They also obtained her debit and credit card numbers as well. Crutz and another bank employee encountered the woman at a grocery store this week.

“In these times it’s hard to believe there are folks out there that do not have a moral compass, they do unconscionable things that don’t just affect the elderly, but people in general, Crutz said.

A representative of the local Area Agency on Aging says that unfortunately, there are people in our society who like to capitalize on events like the coronavirus that are causing a tremendous amount of public anxiety.

“It’s appalling to me that we would want to target our seniors who are vulnerable to this virus. It’s just really unfortunate…I’m just kind of speechless that this would happen this soon,” said the representative, Jennifer Hallum.

She said that caregivers, friends and family of seniors warn them of this and other potential scams.

“Oftentimes, people in this situation, elderly or young, they have a sense of shame and they may not be as forthcoming. If you notice something make sure and ask them questions and support them,” Hallum said.

In this case, the Arkansas Department of Health said that neither they, nor the CDC would go to someone’s home unannounced.

In New Jersey, police departments tell Law Enforcement Today sources that they are warning residents not to speak to anyone claiming to be from the CDC or allow them into their homes. They warn that the agency is not going door to door conducting coronavirus-related surveillance.

The warnings were in response to social media posts that indicated people are knocking on doors, claiming to seek information about the virus, police said.

“There have been social media posts regarding individuals going door to door claiming to be from the CDC,” Moorestown Township Police Department said in a statement.

“The CDC is not deploying teams of people to go door to door to conduct surveillance. People should be warned to not let them in their homes or to speak with them. They are imposters.”

According to the police chief, the agency had not yet received any complaints from residents about such scams. County and state health officials had spoken of unconfirmed reports on social media, he said.

“We thought that would be important for our residents to know,” Chief Lee Lieber told CNN.

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In Pennsylvania, Camden County Police Detective Maria Rivera also warned residents to remain vigilant.

“Unfortunately, this is the world we live in,” she told NBC10. “The CDC has not given approval to anyone to go to anyone’s home and request any type of health information or personal information or any of your credentials.” She warned residents that if anyone comes to their home to contact the police.

Cybersecurity expert Mark Ostrowski also warned about online scammers. With more people working from home, Ostrowski is concerned about hackers looking for weaknesses in a company’s remote network.

“Change your passwords, lock down your Wi-Fi so that you know which users are connected because that plays a big role,” he said.

He also warned that personal and work mobile devices are also vulnerable, in addition to computers.

“People don’t often thing about, you now, adding security software to the mobile device. And that’s something that’s going to have to change.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities is also warning people about potential financial scams. They are warning not to share financial information with anyone who calls unsolicited, the banking regulators said. They say if someone calls with a “limited time offer’ and applies pressure tactics, walk away.

The Federal Trade Commission is warning that people need to be cognizant of potential scams, including those done in person, through social media, texts, emails and websites. The FTC offers the following tips:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know– they could contain electronic viruses that could harm your computer or devices.
  • Watch out for messages claiming to be from the CDC or other experts who say they have information about novel coronavirus. Verify the sender or email address on any of these messages. For the most up to date information on the virus, go to the CDC website and the World Health Organization website.
  • Be suspicious of so-called ‘miracle cures.’ There is no cure for the coronavirus yet; anyone claiming to have vaccinations or other treatments for the virus should be ignored.
  • Do your research before donating to a charity or purchasing a product. The organization or product may not be legitimate, and it could be a scam to take your money.

In Minnesota, the Olmstead County Sheriff’s Office stated on its Facebook page the following:

“The Olmstead County resident stated that a black female between the ages of 35 and 40 came up to their door, wearing a reddish pantsuit and carrying a large handbag of some kind. She asked about coming inside to test a few surfaces for the Coronavirus (COVID-19),” the post said.

“The homeowner recognized that the visit was a scam immediately and did not allow the individual into their home. The scammer than left in a burgundy Buick SUV.”

Police in northeast Ohio are issuing the same warnings, citing Facebook posts circulating online that individuals are going door-to-door testing for COVID-19, which police say is likely a distraction robbery attempt.

 

Bottom line is protect yourself. Unfortunately these events bring out the worst in people. Perhaps a nice dose of COVID-19 will fix them. 


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