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FBI issues public alert about coronavirus scams

Be on the lookout for emails pretending to be from the CDC or related to federal economic stimulus checks.

SAN DIEGO — The FBI is putting out a public warning about fraudulent web sites and telephone calls related to the coronavirus pandemic. Scam artists know how to target potential victims.

“They’re praying upon people's fears associated with a very real and serious disease,” said Todd Hemmen, assistant special agent in charge of the San Diego FBI office.

Hemmen said to be on the lookout for emails pretending to be from the CDC or related to federal economic stimulus checks.  Also, beware of fraudulent web sites offering to sell personal protective gear or treatments for COVID-19.

“To date, there are no known treatments or vaccines, to the best of our understanding, for COVID-19,” Hemmen said.

Earlier in the week, FBI agents arrested Hollywood actor Keith Middlebrook on a single count of wire fraud.

RELATED: Southern California man arrested for touting phony coronavirus 'cure'

“Middlebook had indicated to people that he had found both a preventable pill and an injectable cure for COVID-19 and was attempting to solicit investors as part of that scheme,” said Hemmen.

Best advice: Don’t click on links from external emails, never give your personal information to anyone online, and beware of fake web sites that look like the real thing.

“These individuals are deplorable. It is unconscionable to think that given the state of emergency in our country that criminals are trying to profit from this type of activity,” the special agent said.

If you suspect criminal activity, report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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