Apr 26, 2020 - Technology

Scammers cash in on coronavirus panic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Scammers are seizing on the fear and chaos swirling around the coronavirus pandemic to swindle people out of their money and identities.

Why it matters: Americans have reported almost $18 million in fraud losses due to such scams. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 23,000 coronavirus-related fraud or identity theft complaints since the start of the year, as of April 21.

How it works: Many schemes involve airline or vacation refunds, government stimulus checks, and medical supplies like thermometers or face masks to gain access to victims' personal and financial information.

  • The FTC sent warning letters to seven companies as of early March, including one owned by televangelist Jim Bakker, that are allegedly selling products they claim cure or prevent the virus.

The big picture: This isn't just a problem for Americans.

  • The United Kingdom's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau announced that around £2 million ($2.5 million) has been lost to coronavirus-related scams. At least 824 people have fallen victim to schemes this year, the BBC reports.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned Canadians to look out for text-message scams linked to the country's $82 billion coronavirus support package, according to Global News Canada.

The FTC recommends that people not respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government, not click on links or download files from unknown sources, and ignore online offers for vaccinations and virus test kits.

  • The agency specifically cautions people to watch emails from scammers claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.

Go deeper: The coronavirus chain reaction

Go deeper

May 31, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus looms over George Floyd protests across the country

Protestors rally in Minneapolis. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Health experts fear that massive protests against police brutality in major cities around the United States could result in new coronavirus outbreaks due to the close proximity of demonstrators, AP reports.

Why it matters: The U.S. has already recorded more confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country in the world. A potential surge in cases stemming from the protests would come as many states are weeks into their phased reopening plans.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Health experts fear that the protests breaking out across the U.S. could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.

The state of play: Being outside may limit the danger, but close quarters, yelling, and potential exposure to tear gas, which causes coughing and crying, increase the risk of spread. It's recommended that those who are protesting be tested for the coronavirus.

Family-commissioned autopsy says George Floyd's death was homicide

Police watch as demonstrators block a roadway while protesting the death of George Floyd in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Preliminary results from an independent autopsy commissioned by George Floyd's family found that his death in the custody of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was "homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain," according to a statement from the family's attorney.

Why it matters: The autopsy contradicts preliminary findings from the Hennepin County medical examiner, who found “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxiation or strangulation,” according to charging documents against Chauvin. The official examination is still ongoing.