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Avoiding and Identifying Coronavirus Scams

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It’s sad, but true: whenever the nation suffers a crisis, criminals seek to take advantage — and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. Scammers have exploited the crisis to find new ways to cash in at the expense of residents.

Fraud reports have spiked due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, leaving many residents unsure how to avoid scams or report them to authorities. Following are examples of common frauds and tips for recognizing them and avoid being scammed:

Fake at-home COVID-19 testing kits or vaccinations

Scammers may email you or post advertisements on social media promoting remedies to cure or keep you safe from COVID-19. These ads are completely misleading and are tailored to take as much of your money as possible. Moreover, these kits can also negatively impact your health by exposing you to unknown chemicals.

There are no FDA-authorized home test kits or vaccinations for the coronavirus. Visit sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to check for any official medical breakthrough that may occur in the future.

IRS impersonators

You may be contacted by criminals impersonating the IRS who ask about your stimulus check or request your personal information, claiming such information is necessary if you are to receive future financial support. In reality, the IRS will never call you or contact you via email or text.

Do not provide any personal information — especially with credit card or social security numbers — to anyone contacting you regarding your stimulus check. They are only pretending to be the IRS.

Illegal robocalls

Robocalls are often used by scammers to try and sell you phony low-priced health insurance and work-at-home schemes. Hang up immediately on illegal robocalls. Avoid pressing any numbers during the call as that may lead to more robocalls in the future.

Check with your phone service provider to see if they offer any spam call filters, and be sure to also register yourself on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce robocalls to your phone. 

Fake charities 

Scammers often pretend to be representatives of a legitimate charity and prey on a person’s goodwill by asking for donations to their cause. They may call or email you for donations with no (or fake) proof of official affiliation to a charity they claim to be representing. By donating, your money will end up in the scammers’ pockets and not with the charity you were hoping to support.

Always do your homework before donating and make sure you only submit funds through the charity’s official channels, such as its website or official address. Never respond to a charity that asks for donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.

It’s important for residents to do their own research, and if any scammers contact you, report their suspicious activity to the Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

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State and San Bernardino County OK resumption of youth sports – with restrictions

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — The State Department of Public Health has issued long-anticipated guidance allowing youth sports and physical education – including school-based, club, and recreational programs – to resume, as long as they are limited to groups of participants who regularly gather, such as a class or organized team, and only when physical distancing of at least six feet can be maintained.

Activities should take place outside to the maximum extent possible.

Sporting events, assemblies, and other activities that require close contact or that would promote congregating, such as tournaments and competitions, are not yet permitted either indoors or outdoors.

“This is an opportunity for young people to stay healthy, stay in shape, and be ready when the State allows team and other group activities to resume,” said San Bernardino County Public Health Director Corwin Porter. The County Health Officer has approved implementation of the guidance within San Bernardino County.

(San Bernardino County Health news release)

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18-year-old U.S. Army Reservist Stationed at Ft. Irwin arrested on child porn charges

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FORT IRWIN, Calif. (VVNG.com) — An 18-year-old reserve with the United States Army National Guard stationed at Fort Irwin was arrested for possession of child pornography Wednesday, officials said.

Detectives from multiple agencies conducted a joint investigation involving the suspect, Neal McCoy, a resident of Fridley, Minnesota, and subsequently arrested him on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.

McCoy was booked at the High Desert Detention Center for PC 311.11(A) Possession of Child Pornography with a bail set at $100,000. McCoy is scheduled for arraignment on August 7th.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Specialized Investigations Division Crimes Against Children Detail (CAC), Barstow Sheriff’s Station, and the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) worked together in their investigation.

In January 2020, VVNG reported on similar arrests after Steven Berg, 38, was arrested by investigators who determined that child pornography was distributed from a home within the base at Fort Irwin.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Detective Brian Arias of the Specialized Investigations Division, Crimes Against Children Detail at (909) 387-3615. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call the We-Tip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or you may leave information on the We-Tip Hotline at www.wetip.com.

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18-year-old out on bail arrested again after a pursuit in Victorville

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VICTORVILLE, Calif. (VVNG.com) — An 18-year-old out on bail was arrested again after leading Victorville deputies on a pursuit.

At about 2:28 AM on August 6, 2020, a deputy from the Victorville Police Station observed a vehicle run a red light at Amargosa and Palmdale Roads and attempted a traffic stop.

The driver, identified as Antoine Jackson, of Victorville, failed to yield and led deputies on a pursuit for approximately 7 miles, officials said.

During the pursuit, Jackson drove at high speeds, exceeding 100 mph at times. He also drove in opposing traffic lanes and ran several red lights and stop signs.

The pursuit came to an end in the 12500 block of Terrano when Jackson crashed into a parked car.

Jackson, who was out on bail from a July 28, 2020 arrest, was arrested and booked at High Desert Detention Center for VC2800.2(A) Evading a Peace Officer with disregard for safety and PC12022.1(B) New Felony Offense while on bail.

His bail is set at $100,000 and is scheduled for arraignment in a Victorville courtroom on August 10, 2020.

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