Criminals Use Fear During Crisis: Secret Service

Federal agencies warn of fake charities and fake coronavirus treatments
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2020 5:25 PM CDT
Criminals Use Fear During Crisis: Secret Service
Hundreds of shoppers wait in line outside a Costco in Altamonte Springs, Florida, on Thursday.   (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Times like these give criminals an effective and profitable tool in preying on people, the Secret Service has warned Americans: fear. The agency said the pandemic provides "a prime opportunity for enterprising criminals" to take advantage. Fake charities spring up to collect donations for the ill, ABC News reports, and the Secret Service advised being careful when making a donation. In addition, scammers are charging high prices for medical supplies and requiring deposits be paid upfront. And phishing scams, which collect personal and financial information from victims through a link in an email, are ever-present; a current one involves an email with an attachment supposedly providing information about the coronavirus. Those emails can be reported to the FBI here, per NBC News.

The scams being employed during the pandemic aren't just email tricks. Two federal agencies have told seven companies to stop selling bogus treatments for the coronavirus; one of them is televangelist Jim Bakker's "Silver Solution." The Justice Department promised to prosecute anyone, including companies, taking advantage of the need for masks, respirators, plastic gloves, and other health safety products. "The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, healthcare providers, or the American people during this crucial time," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. (More coronavirus stories.)

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