Officials from the Forrest County Sheriff's Office are asking residents to be diligent in keeping themselves safe from the likes of scammers and hackers that may try to take advantage of individuals during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Scott Lees, public information officer with the sheriff's office, said as it is typical for scammers to target individuals during times of crisis, it is imperative that residents trust only reputable news sources that cite information directly from the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency or other established government organizations. Officials also are urging residents to practice internet security and thoroughly evaluate emails, texts and calls.
"Our office recently released information about how to identify and prevent yourself from becoming a victim - that information is even more relevant today," Lees said in an email. "The Internal Revenue Service will not call, text or email you regarding the (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act stimulus.
"Direct deposit will be utilized or an official mail directly from the IRS will provide instructions on how to receive the stimulus check. The Social Security Administration will also only communicate through official mail and will not call, text or email you regarding the CARES Act stimulus."
Officials also are warning residents of possible sales attempts for products with false claims, including a vaccination for COVID-19. Residents should be aware that until the Food and Drug Administration approves otherwise, all official treatment will be handled by licensed physicians at health care facilities.
"Do not purchase products that claim to prevent or cure this disease," Lees said. "If you are experiencing symptoms, visit the Cough and Fever Clinic (at the Cloverleaf Center) for testing immediately and isolate yourself until further notice from medical professionals."
Employers are encouraged to visit https://bit.ly/2wLhZVx for information on securing networks for employees working from home. Other resources can be found at:
• http://cve.mitre.org for vulnerabilities in applications and operating systems;
• https://usa.gov/coronavirus for information regarding actions being taken by the federal government;
• https://bit.ly/2w5Exjg for official information from the Mississippi Department of Health;
• (877) 978-6453 for a virus hotline;
• https://www.ic3.gov to report cybercrimes;
• http:www.ago.state.ms.us or (601) 359-4230 to report price gouging;
• https://fraudsupport.org or dial 211 to report being a victim of cybercrime.
"We are all in this together," Lees said. "Our community has pulled through hurricanes, tornadoes, recessions and many other trying times.
"Forrest County, the Pine Belt, Mississippi, and the United States of America will come out of this, but in order to do so we need to remain vigilant in not only keeping ourselves and our families healthy, but also protect against fraud and scams.
"In short, practice social distancing, remain home whenever possible, wash your hands and take precautions to prevent becoming a cybercrime victim."