Kusserow on Compliance: New FBI warning about scammers and the COVID-19 crisis

On March 20th, the FBI issued a new warning to the public about a rise in schemes related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The FBI warned to guard against opening documents and to research sources before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits. The FBI specifically warned to look out for fake CDC, NIH, HHS, and CMS emails. The agency noted to be particularly wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide and phishing emails asking to verify personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. The fact is that government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking private information in order to send money. The FBI also urges the public to be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19.  Other new scams involve seeking charitable contributions, financial relief airline carrier refunds, fake cures and vaccines, and fake testing kits. Failing to follow this advice can permit fraudsters to use links in emails to deliver malware to computers to steal personal information or to lock the computer and demand payment. With the current crisis, the FBI is concerned that many will lower their guard against scammers and, therefore, need to be reminded about these threats.

Tips for Compliance and Privacy Officers

  • Alert employees to beware of COVID-19 communications
  • Remind employees to not click on email links/attachment, or respond to inquiries
  • Regularly test users to make sure they are on guard
  • Configure email servers to block zip or other files that are likely to be malicious


Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 2020 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.