Video footage of a thief stealing several Coronavirus (COVID-19) test kits might represent the worst reaction to the ongoing pandemic so far. But it shouldn’t be all that surprising and the truth is it’s a good reminder to be vigilant at all times, but especially when so much of our attention is centered around the crisis.
While the current Coronavirus pandemic brings out the best in most of humanity – in terms of empathy, caring for one another and basic responsibility for the good of society – crisis situations also unfortunately bring out bad actors who are looking to take advantage of the unaware or vulnerable. Our consistent experience with hurricanes and the difficult situations they create have made South Floridian battle-tested against many scammers, fraudsters, price-gougers and other criminals looking to get one over on the rest of us when we are distracted. Even with that experience, however, the unprecedented nature of current pandemic promises to generate new and prolonged challenges.
Besides the unconscionable thief who stole those critical test kits, there have already been multiple reports of individuals posing as health and FEMA officials looking to get into apartments and homes to burglarize or rob. So far in South Florida there have been the following reports:
- Calls requesting information (social security, bank information, etc.) in exchange for government checks or Coronavirus testing access.
- Knocks at your door from individuals claiming to be from the health department or other agencies looking to gain access into your home.
- Emails or online advertisements selling Coronavirus test kits or other virus related products.
“The health department is not going to be visiting you at home. No one is going to be coming to your door to check to see if you have the coronavirus, and so if someone knocks on your door making that claim, don’t answer the door, call the police,” said Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina to WSVN.
Last week, US Attorney General William Barr warned the public to look out for the following Coronavirus related scams:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
Just as COVID-19 can be most dangerous to older populations, so too do criminals often target that same population. Here are a couple of tips to avoid falling prey to those looking to take advantage of you:
- Always ask to see identification of those purporting to be a government official.
- Never open the door to a stranger who has not identified themselves and shown proof of that identity. Even if they do show identification, avoid opening the door if at all possible and have a conversation through a closed door.
- Do not give out your personal identification to unknown persons.
- Be leery of anyone who claims to have access to testing or medicine and is looking to sell either.
While our best nature is to be trusting and accommodating during tough times, we must also remain aware that others in our community will try and take advantage of the situation. As the necessary restrictions and controls put in place on society drag on and anger, frustration and desperation increase, you can expect more individuals will be looking for ways to take advantage of the situation. Remain vigilant!