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West Texas FBI Agent gives advice for combating online COVID-19 scams

Scammers are using COVID-19 to victimize innocent, hardworking people. Here's how you can protect yourself.

EL PASO, Texas — The internet is a wonderful tool, and in this pandemic, it's an essential tool for you. 

But with such a heavy reliance on it, we have to be careful and be on the lookout for scams.

Personal Protective Equipment is just one example.

"With the need for surgical masks, you may see that people may solicit money upfront or ask money to be placed in that escrow, which is typically outisde the normal practice of business," Terrance Gass, FBI Special Agent said. 

Special Agent Gass specializes in financial crimes and healthcare fraud. 

"While the stimulus checks have been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money," Gass said. 

Instead, Gass said there's a better option. 

"People may want to visit irs.gov to see how this is happening, what they are doing, how I am supposed to receive my check and get the most updated information from that website," Gass said. 

He recommends four tips to stay safe:

  1. Avoid opening attachments and clicking on links within emails from senders you don't recognize.
  2. Make sure important information is coming from a legitimate source
  3. Refuse to supply login credentials or financial data in response to an email
  4. Visit websites by inputting their domains manually. 

If you are a victim of a scam, here are your options:

  • You can visit the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721
  • Send an email to disaster@leo.gov
  • Visit tips.fbi.gov or ic3.gov
  • Lastly, you can look up the FBI website and contact your local office

"It is important that everyone knows because it's a way how (you) can go about protecting (yourself) today," says Gass. "The COVID-19 scammers are using (this) as an opportunity now to steal people's information and to victimize innocent, hardworking people," Gass said.

So do your virtual homework and don't let COVID scammers get your information. 

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