Scammers are using the coronavirus to prey on the public, Michigan officials warn.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has sent out a warning to the public not to fall for a scam being used by criminals preying on their fears when it comes to coronavirus. Using false information, the department reported that scammers used the coronavirus to sell fake products, and steal consumers’ money and personal information through online correspondence, such as emails and social media posts. The state department’s warning was posted after the Calhoun County Public Health Department released information about a text reportedly circulating through an elementary school in the county.
“We got a call from one of the elementary schools in Marshall saying they had received word there was coronavirus in the school,” Brigette Reichenbaugh, the Deputy Health Officer for the county department said of the scam. “We don’t know where the text came from and then they received another text that said anyone with coronavirus should contact a local hospital.”
In Michigan, only a handful of people have been tested for the coronavirus while just over 300 are being monitored. According to Michigan state data, “no confirmed or positive cases had been reported in Calhoun County or the entire state.” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said, “While the threat of coronavirus disease 2019 is real, there have been no confirmed cases in Michigan. Do NOT fall for these scams. In fact, this is the perfect example of criminals preying on people’s fears. Don’t give a single piece of personal information to anyone reaching out to you regarding coronavirus.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, added, “We at MDHHS recognize the potential threat associated with this virus and are working to identify any suspect cases in Michigan along with our local health partners. To help coordinate Michigan’s response to 2019 Novel Coronavirus, we are opening the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center to assist the multiple public health jurisdictions involved in the response and prevention of coronavirus here in our state.”
These scammers may also ask for donations to victims or infect their computers with viruses.
“Unless it comes from the state health department or your county health department, it’s best to consider it a scam,” Reichenbaugh said.
Nessel’s office stated, “Regardless of who they claim to be, people who text or email asking for personal or financial information should be treated as potential thieves who may be trying to steal someone’s identity. Resist their believable scenarios and confirm the identity of a contact by independently speaking with the identified source. Do NOT provide any personal information to people who call or email seeking it. Remember, identity thieves are crafty, and they may attempt to contact people numerous times using various aliases.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
“The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person;
Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet);
Via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes;
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
Officials are keep updated stats regarding any confirmed cases.