Scammers take advantage of COVID-19 pandemic


SIDNEY — In times of troubles and stress — or in a COVID-19 pandemic — There’s usually someone out there ready to take advantage of a person’s fears.

Unfortunately, said Shelby County Chief Deputy Jim Frye, the scammers on out there trying to fleece an unsuspecting citizen.

Frye, who was sitting in for Sheriff John Lenhart’s weekly interview, said while criminal activity in the county has decreased by 50%, the office is receiving more phone calls about scams.

“With the COVID-19 situation, people are playing on the fears, isolation and trust for information about our citizens,” said Frye.

A scam hit close to the sheriff’s office when a deputy approached Frye with a letter from Jobs and Family Services. The letter included a pin for the deputy — who was not laid off — to access his unemployment information.

“When the deputy accessed the account, he found that a person had received three unemployment checks in the deputy’s name,” said Frye.

Criminals, he said are taking advantage of the pandemic to illegally obtain funds from unsuspecting people.

“Never give your personal information to someone on the phone,” said Frye. “Some scammers will take advantage of the fact that you’re diabetic. They offer a free COVID-19 testing kit and diabetic items when you give them your personal information.

“Or they say they have a fake cure and want payment over the phone,” he said.

There is no cure for COVID-19, said Frye, but scammers will tell you there is and they have it available.

“They say they have a home test you can take, They say they have a vaccine for COVID-19 or they have over-the-counter medicine that you can take,” said Frye.

“The CDC says there is no home test you can take. There is no cure for it. When you get a phone call like that, immediately hang up and contact you local law enforcement and tell them what happened.

There are also phishing emails in which the person is asked for their personal information so their personal ID and money can be stolen.

“Don’t provide anyone with your information,” said Frye.

Frye said in a recent survey, 32% of those polled thought they had been the target of a scam and 52% are worried they might be targeted.

“If you’re concerned about COVID-19, like me, you might have done a search on the internet. You might have clicked on a map that showed where the cases are. Once you click on the map, you might be attacked by Malware and a virus is now on your computer.

“If you want to go to a secure site to learn about COVID-19, go to r the CDC website,” said Frye.

Frye said his office was contacted by the Ohio EMA, who is reporting spam calls with the person identifying themselves as an Ohio EMA employee and they are asking for your social security number.

“The Ohio EMA is not calling you. They will not be asking you for your social security number,” he said.”People might be going door-to-door saying they ll test you for the virus or take you temperature. Don’t let anyone like that in your house. Call the local law enforcement if this happens to you.”

Frye expressed his prayers to the medical staffs, law enforcement and first responders for their work during the pandemic.

Frye also mentioned the death of a child died of a gunshot wound in Van Wert County last week.

“At a time when when schools are closed and they are doing things out of boredom,” said Frye. “The sheriff’s office is giving free gun locks to residents of Shelby County. If someone needs one, they can call me at 927-494-2117.”

By Melanie Speicheer

[email protected]

The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

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