As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to evolve, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is working to guard against criminals who might seek to exploit this crisis for their own personal profit.
“We remain committed to ensuring that the rule of law and public safety are not eroded during this critical time,” according to a news release.
Scammers have devised numerous methods for defrauding people in connection with COVID-19. They are setting up websites, contacting people by phone and email, and posting disinformation on social media platforms as a method to take people’s money and personal information.
Be aware of the many fraud schemes that are connected to COVID-19.
“A Jefferson County citizen recently informed me of a scam via email using the following email address: email@example.com. The fraudster provides a bank name along with an account and routing number, but it is fraudulent,” Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr. said in the release.
“Another citizen informed me of a website that claims to be selling Lysol, but it is fraudulent. The website is www.cleanyos.com. The website will allow you to set up a shopping cart, make a payment, and it will also generate a tracking number, but customers are not receiving the items and the tracking confirmations are showing that the items are being delivered within an hour of purchase,” Woods said.
Some examples of other scams linked to COVID-19 include:
• Treatment scams: Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
• Medicare scams: Scammers are offering free COVID-19 testing for those on Medicare and requesting Medicare beneficiary information from those interested in such testing. Scammers are then submitting false medical claims for unrelated, unnecessary, or fictitious testing or services.
• Prescription drug scams: Scammers are similarly submitting medical claims for unnecessary antiviral treatments or other drugs that are falsely marketed as purported cures for COVID-19.
• Supply scams: Scammers are using robocalls and online resources, such as fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses that claim to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
• Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.
• Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
• Benefit scams: Scammers are offering stimulus funds through various channels, including social media, if the recipient provides his or her bank account number.
• Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware, giving money, or providing personal identifying and financial information.
The sheriff urges residents to take the following steps to protect themselves against scams during the pandemic:
• Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.
• Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
• Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.
• Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto the computer or device.
• Check online reviews of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.
• Be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Don’t send money through any of these channels.
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites.