WEST ORANGE, NJ — Scammers are currently leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal money, personal information or both from residents across the country, according to the West Orange Police Department (WOPD), which provided information on Friday about how residents can protect themselves from falling into this trap.

The WOPD advises residents to do their research before:

  • Clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus;
  • Donating to a charity online or through social media;
  • Contributing to a crowd-funding campaign;
  • Purchasing products online; or
  • Giving up personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.

Residents should also be on the lookout for the following:

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Emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

According to the WOPD, scammers are falsely claiming to be representatives of the CDC or other organizations and trick their victims by offering information about COVID-19. Residents should not click links or open that they do not recognize, as fraudsters can use links in Emails to deliver malware to the victim’s computer to steal personal information or to lock the computer and demand payment.

West Orange police also advise residents to be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide, as criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received.

Phishing Emails requesting verification of personal information.

Now that talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, the WOPD advises that government agencies are sending unsolicited Emails seeking private information in order to send money.

In addition to requests for verification of personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government, phishing Emails may also claim to be related to:

  • Charitable contributions;
  • General financial relief;
  • Airline carrier refunds;
  • Fake cures and vaccines; or
  • Fake testing kits

Sales of counterfeit treatments or equipment.

The WOPD urges residents to be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19. Known counterfeit products have included sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns and gloves.

More information on unapproved or counterfeit products can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website www.fda.gov and the Environmental Protection Agency website www.epa.gov.

Reports of counterfeit product sales should be sent to www.ic3.gov and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center at iprcenter.gov.

How to find accurate information on COVID-19.

For accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit www.cdc.gov or www.coronavirus.gov, which are both posting extensive guidance and information that is updated frequently. Residents can also consult their primary care physicians for guidance.

The WOPD reminds residents to use good cyber hygiene and security measures by adhering to the following tips:

  • Do not open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don't recognize.
  • Do not provide your username, password, date of birth, social security number, financial data, or other personal information in response to an email or robocall.
  • Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
  • Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (for example, an address that should end in a ".gov" ends in .com" instead).

Anyone who thinks he or she might be the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime or wants to report suspicious activity should call the WOPD at 973-325-4000.