HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — The FBI is warning that thieves are using the coronavirus pandemic to find new victims.
They say complaints are coming in from people in Hampton Roads who’ve fallen for these new versions of old scams.
Christina Pullen with FBI Norfolk says thieves are leveraging fear of the coronavirus to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
Pullen says more people are using the internet for longer periods of time during this stay-at-home order for work, school and entertainment. Scammers are using this to their advantage and finding new victims here in Hampton Roads.
“There is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19 at this point, so anytime you see an advertisement for a treatment or cure, that’s a scam."
In other cases, scammers are targeting people who are looking for PPE, or personal protective equipment.
“You see an ad online for face masks or PPE, and you’re not delivered the goods you ordered,” says Pullen.
The FBI says there has been an increase of reports of online extortion scams. Pullen says criminals try to pressure people to send them money, claiming they hacked the victim’s computer camera and will release nude or embarrassing photos or video.
“People will either get a phone call or they’ll get an email saying that a website that they visited was infected with a virus that activated a camera and now the person has lewd photos or compromising videos of the person, and then they demand money.”
Pullen says people should not give personal, financial or banking information to unsolicited callers and says they should be suspicious of unsolicited emails and phone calls. If you do get one, the best thing to do is to “slam the scam” and hang up or delete the email.
Pullen says another red flag to look out for is when someone demands you send money within a short time frame, especially posing as a government agency. Government agencies will never demand payment by phone or email.
If you’re a victim and you need to report a scam, the FBI’s internet crime complaint center can be found here.