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FBI: Criminals taking advantage of COVID-19, claiming to sell vaccines

Fake website taken down, officials warn there could be others

SAN ANTONIO – Criminals are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FBI said.

FBI Special Agent Michelle Lee, who is based in San Antonio, said cyber agents have been able to take down at least one fraudulent website alleging to sell fake coronavirus vaccines. Right now, there is no vaccine for the virus.

“So, what those agents did was they worked with the United States Attorney’s office in Austin, and we were able to obtain a temporary restraining order which resulted in the web page being taken down,” Lee said.

Lee said the fake site is proof that even during a global pandemic, there are people looking to take advantage during a desperate situation.

“They’re taking money that should be spent for families to take care of each other for medicine and hand sanitizer and eggs and other things that we need,” Lee said.

Investigators said that in addition to trying to sell fake vaccines, whoever ran the site also intended to steal identities.

“So it would put the victims, you know, in a difficult situation, financially, in the future,” Lee said.

No suspect has been named, but federal investigators said there is an ongoing criminal investigation. Agents are asking the public to stay vigilant.

“So we’re hoping to warn the public that if you see any website like this, you know, don’t believe it,” Lee said.

If you come across a fraudulent website, you’re urged to report it to the Department of Justice or FBI by phone or online. You can call 866-720-5721 to report fraud.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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