KSL INVESTIGATES

Secret Service, Treasury Dept. Warn Utahns About Spike in COVID-Related Scams

Apr 13, 2020, 7:23 PM | Updated: 9:49 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – While the world works to flatten the curve of positive COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Treasury Department has issued a warning about a different curve they see spiking – coronavirus-related scams.

The Secret Service, along with one of the world’s largest credit card companies, Visa, reached out to KSL TV because they want Utahns to know about a troubling trend they’ve been seeing. They said the bad guys have been capitalizing on coronavirus fears to rip you off. 

Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Tom Edwards said they’ve seen a spike in emails that profess to be from charity organizations, the World Health Organization, or from the CDC, requesting funds.

Others have been enticing folks with medical supplies or even COVID-19 treatments.

“Those are all intended to get people to click onto phishing websites so they can steal their personal information and their credit card information for fraudulent use,” Edwards said. “We have to do the best to flatten the curve on the fraud, because we know it’s rising.” 

It was too early to say how many Americans have been duped by COVID-related scams, but Edwards imagined the number will be very high.

“This is very sinister,” Edwards said.

Laurie Hodges works for VISA, where they have been tracking increased criminal activity since the pandemic. She said they’re seeing targeted attacks.

“The fraudsters have a high degree of sophistication,” she said. “It starts with all of the data that is available on the dark web, about individuals, American consumers.” 

If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, these crooks know everything about you, which can make them very convincing. 

Hodges and Edwards both said they contacted KSL TV to not only warn Utahns, but as a call to action.

“The moment that you notice that you’re a victim, you need to contact your local police department or sheriff’s office,” Edwards said.

“The way that we go about curbing their ability to take advantage of all of us during these difficult times is through consumer awareness,” said Hodges.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, people reported losing more than $667 million to imposters in 2019. When people lost money, they most frequently reported paying scammers with a gift card.

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Secret Service, Treasury Dept. Warn Utahns About Spike in COVID-Related Scams