As Americans await much-needed stimulus checks from the coronavirus bill that President Trump signed last week, federal authorities are warning of a new scam targeting people already wary about the pandemic.
The FBI's San Diego office said Monday on Twitter that scammers are texting about offers of "goodies" from big box chain Costco, saying it's part of a COVID-19 "stimulus package" for the store's "loyal customers."
Federal law enforcement has warned in recent weeks of a rise in fraud schemes as the outbreak rockets across the nation.
"Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both," FBI Special Agent Davene Butler said in a statement.
The latest scheme boasts a $100 "bounty" or $110 in "goodies" from Costco.
"The FBI is warning the public that Costco is NOT texting (or using social media platforms) the public or its customers to provide a 'stimulus check,' 'freebies,' or a 'stimulus package,'" the FBI San Diego office said Monday. "These messages, containing a malicious link, are a SCAM. Do NOT click on the link."
The links included in the messages contain malware, ransomware or other fraudulent methods to steal identity, financial or other personal information, according to federal officials.
In recent weeks, the FBI also warned about emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other organizations offering information on the virus.
There also are websites and apps that claim to track COVID-19 cases worldwide, but aim to steal personal information and money instead.
"Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received," the FBI said.
As the coronavirus stimulus bill made its way through Congress, federal officials warned of phishing emails asking people to verify their personal information in order to receive a check from the government.
"While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money," the agency said.
Anyone who believes they have been the victim of an Internet scam or cybercrime, or wants to report suspicious activity, is asked to file a complaint on the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
As of Wednesday morning, there are at least 189,035 positive cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and at least 3,900 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 7,136 people have recovered from the virus nationwide. The death toll from the virus in the U.S. has surpassed the reported number in China, figures that have been disputed by locals.