Sadly, scoundrels and miscreants using coronavirus fear to run scams

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The COVID-19 pandemic has, for the most part, allowed the good in people to shine.

The stories of people helping each other, from hospital workers to police to grocery store workers, is impressive.

And that makes it all the more disappointing that a few grifters are taking advantage of this horrific situation to perpetrate scams and frauds.

Walla Walla Police Sgt. Eric Knudson told the U-B this week that local residents need to be extra cautious as there’s been an uptick in scams and frauds since mid-March — the date when the state imposed restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“The scams go on and on,” Knudson said.

The sergeant said the schemes take several forms, including CraigsList rental scams, prepaid credit card scams and Social Security card scams.

In addition, COVID-19-themed phishing scams have been reported nationally.

In these despicable scams that use fear to prey on the vulnerable, grifters send emails appearing to be from hospitals or government agencies to trick people into giving them personal information or downloading attachments.

The bottom line is, whether in the midst of a pandemic or in more normal times, don’t simply believe random emails you receive are legitimate. Generally, they are not — particularly when they are making you an offer that seems too good to be true. Those offers are never real.

Yes, it’s sad that, at a time when we are all on edge because of the coronavirus, we must be ultra-vigilant to protect ourselves and loved ones from scoundrels and miscreants.

But we must. Stay safe and follow this advice provided by Sgt. Knudson:

Do not wire money unless you know the person it is going to.

Do not purchase a prepaid credit card and give the information to anyone over the phone asking you to do so.

Do not cash a check for overpayment on an item that was sold and then send the buyer a refund for the overpayment.

Do not let people claiming to be from Microsoft access your computer remotely for repair if you did not initiate the service.

The IRS has not suspended your Social Security card number because of fraud.

Do not give your credit card number over the phone to solicitors saying your interest rate will be reduced.