FBI warns of schemers using coronavirus to try and gain personal information

Posted at 12:10 PM, Aug 14, 2020

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Right now, people are craving information, especially about the COVID-19 crisis. Leaders with the FBI say the thirst for information is causing some people to let their guard down when opening emails.

They said they’re seeing an increase in people clicking on malicious websites.

Crime analyst and former police officer Richard James said he recently got an email from someone he thought he knew, but the name on the email was off by one letter. He clicked on the email and said his virus protection software warned him of the danger. He got help from the IT department and the issue was resolved.

The FBI said the emails look legitimate, but they are really a Trojan horse installing malicious software on your cell phone, computer, tablet or laptop.

The FBI said scammers are sending out emails that look like the latest information on COVID-19.

They said they’re looking to get personal banking information, data and even access to devices to exploit people.

“There’s really no limit what they can pull off that device once they have control over it,” said Aaron Pinder, FBI Supervisory Special Agent. “That means they can obtain access to webcams. We have even seen individuals get extorted online.”

The FBI says to protect yourself and be careful what you are clicking on.

“They are getting very savvy right now. Things are looking very realistic,” said James.

“What we encourage the public to do, anytime they think they’ve been scammed or they’re aware of a scam to report that information to the FBI via our website and that allows us to track it,” said Pinder.

Below is information from the FBI:

Fake CDC Emails.

Watch out for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other organizations claiming to offer information on the virus. Do not click links or open attachments you do not recognize. Fraudsters can use links in emails to deliver malware to your computer to steal personal information or to lock your computer and demand payment. Be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide. Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received.

Phishing Emails.

Look out for phishing emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you 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

Counterfeit Treatments or Equipment.

Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves.

More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at You can also find information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website,, and the Environmental Protection Agency website,

Report counterfeit products at and to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at

If you are looking for accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, the CDC has posted extensive guidance and information that is updated frequently. The best sources for authoritative information on COVID-19 are and You may also consult your primary care physician for guidance.

The FBI is reminding you to always use good cyber hygiene and security measures. By remembering the following tips, you can protect yourself and help stop criminal activity:

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

If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at