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Official News Blog of Baltimore County police, fire, homeland security and emergency management. Call 911 to report crimes in progress and emergencies.
Keyword: scam

As more of the population ventures out, it increases our chances of being exposed to COVID-19. This could lead to a call from a contact tracer who is hired by the Maryland Department of Health to track where you have been and who you’ve been in contact with in the last two weeks. Their job is to contact you if there’s a possibility that you’ve been exposed to the virus to help prevent it from spreading to others.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Maryland Department of Health have warned us of scammers pretending to be contact tracers. Maryland is using covidLINK, a contact tracing initiative to help keep us safe. A contact tracer will contact you by phone, and occasionally in person if needed. A legitimate contact tracer will ask you about your health, if you have any symptoms of the virus, and, if so, how long you’ve had those symptoms. You may be asked of places that you recently visited, names of individuals that you’ve been in close contact with, and if you have contact information for those people. Provide as much information as possible so that the contact tracer can get in touch with others who may have potentially been infected. If you tested positive for Coronavirus, the contact tracer may also request the date of your test and the name of your insurance company for additional verification.

Scammers want to steal your identity and money. You should never be asked for passwords, photographs or videos, or personal details unrelated to COVID-19. Here are steps to prevent being scammed.

  • Never pay a contact tracer. Their service to you is free and you should never be asked for money or payment.
  • Never give anyone your personal information. You will not be asked for your Social Security number, bank, credit card or financial information.
  • Never share your immigration status. A contact tracer doesn’t even need that information.

Maryland has provided a way for you to verify that you’re being contacted by a legitimate contact tracer. If you receive a call from them, the caller ID will read “MD COVID.” If you do not have caller ID, the incoming phone number should be (240) 466-4488.

To report a scam or other consumer problem related to the Coronavirus, file a complaint with the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. Information you provide will be shared with local, state and federal law enforcement partners.

The information you provide to a contact tracer is crucial in reducing the spread of the virus and keeping others healthy. Your response will help inform and protect others.

The Baltimore County Police Department knows that scammers are out there looking for new ways to take your money. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is another opportunity for them to steal from the public.

Follow these simple tips to avoid being a victim of a scam.

  • As the government works on an economic relief package to send money, scammers are sending texts and emails telling the public how to receive this money. Don't listen to them. As of today, checks haven't being sent out. Don't be scammed by speaking with people who tell you they can get money to you sooner. Until the details are finalized, money won't be distributed. 
  • Don't click on unfamiliar links. If you do, a virus or malware could be downloaded on your computer.
  • You might receive false emails from scammers claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The message might say they have new and updated information about the virus. Don't trust these messages. If you want to get the most accurate information, go online and visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO),or Baltimore County Government for resources available to residents.
  • Beware of online offers of medicines to ease symptoms or cure the virus. There are no vaccines, pills, potions or other “miracle” drugs at this time. The CDC and other organizations are working together on this and, rest assured, we will hear when something is available.
  • Stay away from charities that contact you either by phone or online for a donation, even those that say they represent a well-known organization. No legitimate, charitable organization will ask for donations in the form of cash, gift cards or by wire. Do your research before making a donation.  If you want to donate money for a good cause, visit Charity Navigator or the BBB Wise Giving Alliance to learn more about the charity before doing so.
  • Your phones, either cellphone or landlines, are places for scammers to trick you into giving personal information. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers use illegal robocalls to illicit information from victims. The FTC advises that some callers, often a recording, ask the victim to press a telephone button that will allow them to talk to a live operator. Doing this could land you on a call list for future robocalls.

If you think you may have been scammed, contact the Baltimore County Police Department's Financial and Cyber Crimes Unit at 410-887-2190.

Over the last few months a number of people in the county have received emails that threaten to expose the recipient for bogus internet usage.

Here’s how it works. In an email, the criminal tells the victim that he or she knows a lot about the victim. The criminal says malware, like a RAT (Remote Access Tool), was setup on the victim’s computer and has used the victim’s webcam to film the target watching adult video clips (porn), and has proof that the victim visited these sites.

The extortionist claims that he or she has hacked your account. The hacker is counting on you to believe him or her because hacking is widespread. In some instances, they even posted a partial password that you may have used. Often times these are from old hacks that had your email associated with the account the password came from.

Upon reading this, notice the grammar and the language used, it often has mistakes because these scammers are not from the US. Like so many scams, it is most likely a foreign actor preying on unsuspecting victims.

Let’s be clear, you know where you’ve been on the internet. The scammer claims to have you on video watching various sites. Some victims who have received this email don’t have video cams on their computers. That would be your first clue that this is bogus. Even if you do have a camera, you know where you have visited, and, by the way, cover the camera when not using it.

The criminal goes on to threaten the victim with exposure on social network sites, those on your email list, and any other contact list you may use. The scammer “suggests” you pay him or her in cash or Bitcoin (a digital form of currency) to stop the video from going out. The scammer claims to have made copies of the “video.”

These scare tactics are just that. This is extortion and the criminal is hoping that you will panic, though you’ve done nothing wrong, and pay the demand. Remember, the Internet is like the Wild West and you could be getting a message from someone next door or halfway around the world.

Don’t pay the demand! Don’t follow up with this hacker. If you’ve received one of these and did not lose money, report it to IC3.gov or if you have sent money, call 410-887-2222 to make a report if you live in Baltimore County.

 
 
Revised October 16, 2020               
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