When a society’s way of life is upended, there are inevitably those who seek to take advantage of the ensuing chaos to turn a profit.

Huntingdon County District Attorney David Smith believes scammers will be out in full force in the coming weeks.

“Obviously there will be a certain segment of society trying to scam people. I know law enforcement and government agencies are very concerned. Right now is a golden opportunity for these types of individuals to fleece the public,” he said.

Smith believes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, “miracle drugs” will begin to be peddled claiming to solve all health problems, along with a variety of other schemes designed to capitalize on the populace’s mounting anxiety.

“There is also a concern of scammers pretending to be a certain charity to gather money and I think also there’s a concern the stimulus package could result in someone posing as a government agency contacting you asking for your Social Security number and information,” he said. “There’s also a concern of scammers calling and requesting information pretending to be the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).”

The solution is a simple one.

“Use common sense. No one is going to call you out of the blue asking for your Social Security number,” said Smith. “If it’s too good to be true, it is. Don’t be pressured, you don’t have to do something immediately.”

Smith recommends the Federal Trade Commission’s website for valuable information on how to protect yourself from scams and what to do if you believe you’ve been the victim of one: www.ftc.gov.

He also recommends being leery of emails that advertise themselves as being from the government, as this is one way scammers “phish” for information or gain remote access to computers.

“If you think you’ve been a victim, change your username, password and you can contact identifytheft.gov,” said Smith.

Thankfully, federal and state government are likely to be cracking down on these types of criminal activities at a time when many U.S. citizens are already feeling vulnerable.

“I truly believe, given this unique challenge the country is under, the federal government and Attorney General’s office of Pennsylvania is going to make the prosecution of this type of thing a priority,” said Smith.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

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