Florida attorney general issues consumer alert about coronavirus-related scams

Fraudsters lure victims with offers of cash, COVID-19 vaccine

Coronavirus. (CDC via AP, File)

MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has issued a consumer alert about new scams that have been popping up that are related to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a news release issued Friday by State Attorney Dennis W. Ward, of Monroe County, the scams range from text messages and phone calls to imposters posing as health workers offering free COVID-19 tests.

“The bottom line is Floridians need to be on the lookout for scams and never give out personal or financial information to solicitors,” the news release stated. “Over last weekend, reports emerged of text messages asking people to click on a link to claim a $1,000 payment, apparently connected to a COVID-19 federal stimulus package. The link most likely contained malware. Never click on any links in unsolicited messages.”

Law enforcement agencies in South Florida have also issued alerts about people dressed in white lab coats and masks impersonating U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention workers.

The people are reportedly knocking on home doors and offering free COVID-19 tests.

The CDC will not send any employee to test someone at a home.

Authorities are advising the public to immediately call 911 if someone shows up at their home appearing to be from the CDC. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services has also reported a scam involving people calling older Americans and offering to mail them free COVID-19 test kits.

“The scammers claim all they need from the senior to send the free kit is the target’s Medicare number,” the news release stated. “Never provide health information, or any other personal information, in response to an unsolicited phone call.”

Ward’s office reminds the public that if an offer seem too good to be true, it probably is.

Phishing emails that appear to come from the CDC or World Health Organization have also recently been reported to authorities, as well as a malicious website displaying a live map of COVID-19 cases that mimics a legitimate map by Johns Hopkins University.

In that scam, sensitive user data is stolen by the fraudsters once a victim clicks on the website.

“Scammers will use any occasion to prey on the emotions of unsuspecting consumers, and fear is a favorite tool of criminals trying to commit fraud,” Moody said in a statement. “Please exercise caution when searching the internet for COVID-19 information and do not click on suspicious links or attachments.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, “scammers are also setting up websites to sell bogus products to protect against the virus, and using fake emails, texts and social media posts as a trick to steal money and personal information.”

The attorney general warns people to also ignore online offers for vaccinations, as no COVID-19 vaccine currently exists.

About the Author:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.