'People are scared:' DHS, BBB warn of official-looking phishing emails amid coronavirus outbreak

MADISON -- As of Monday, Feb. 10, rest results were back for almost every suspected coronavirus case in Wisconsin. Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said of 15 "people under investigation," 13 were negative for coronavirus, with one pending. The first case in Wisconsin was confirmed on Feb. 5 in Dane County.

This, amid a new threat related to coronavirus that's no danger to your health, but could impact your wallet.

"Scammers watch the news, just like we do," said Jim Temmer with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau.

State health officials sounded the alarm Monday -- warning of scammers preying on Wisconsin residents.

"There has been a new development," said Jeanne Ayers with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. "People receiving information about the coronavirus that looks official, but, in fact, it turned out to be phishing."

Phishing is typically done through email. It's where scammers pretend to be an official government agency like the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or DHS.

"The thing we've seen says CDC-gov.com," said Temmer. "Well, that's a fake email address, and fake domain name."

DHS officials noted an easy way to tell it's a scam.

"We would not reach out to individuals in that way at all," said Ayers.

That's right. You would never receive an email seeking personal information from these agencies.

Jim Temmer

"They are trying to play on people's emotions," said Temmer. "People are scared. They're gonna do what they can."

The scammers not only want your personal information -- but in some cases, your money.

"There's another one out there where supposedly the Center for Disease Control is looking for Bitcoin donations to fight this virus," said Temmer. "Well, they don't take Bitcoin, and they aren't looking for donations."

Here's what you should do if you suspect you're being targeted by scammers:

"I don't care if it's on the phone, email, or your front door," said Temmer. "Delete the email. Don't answer the phone. Don't answer the door. Don't give those scammers a chance to get your money."

DHS officials said they only time you would receive an email from your local health department is if you've already spoke with them in person.