GREENSBORO, N.C. — As millions and millions of people across the nation worry about the coronavirus it was a matter of time before some would start to prey on those fears. Expect to see some virus-related scams in the weeks and months ahead.

Stacey Grimm has a kind heart and a gentle soul. She is also smart and savvy, so when someone tried to scam her online she didn’t bite, but she did get angry, “I began to think about all the people I love who have email and might not recognize this is a scam, it made me mad,” said Grimm.

An associate pastor at a church in Burlington, Grimm gets plenty of spam or junk emails, most are deleted before opening but not this one, “It caught my attention because in the subject line it had my name and another word that I use as a password,” said Grimm.

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The email was a threat and an attempt to extort money. The emailer threatening to expose her family to the coronavirus if he was not sent $4,000 in 24 hours. The scammer providing a link to send the money by purchasing Bitcoin.

The emailer also threatened to expose her “dirty little secrets” for all to know. As a pastor that part made Grimm chuckle since the biggest secret, she has is probably not putting a chip clip on the Doritos. Still, the fact remained it was a threat and it was unsettling, “It felt very personal,” said Grimm.

After thinking about it and talking it over with her husband Grimm decided to call the Burlington Police Department to report the threat, “They said they consider it a crime,” said Grimm. “(The officer) said we knew the coronavirus threats and scams were coming but we hadn’t seen them yet, this is the first and probably not the last.”

Grimm also reached out to a friend of hers who works in the IT world to understand how the scammer was able to get her password, “He said there was probably a website that I visited that was infected with malware and by that infection, they retrieved a password,” said Grimm.

He did not think they would be able to use the password or have any idea what it was connected to. Grimm still decided to change the password especially since it was the verbal command for her home security system.

While the email was an obvious scam to Grimm, she wanted to share the story in hopes that others won’t fall victim. Police said they don't believe the email originated in the United States which would explain the poor grammar used.

Police warn people if you receive an email like this to contact them immediately and do not send any money or scratch off the code to gift cards if asked to purchase them.

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FACTS NOT FEAR

Remember facts, not fear when talking about the coronavirus. You should take the same measures recommended by health leaders to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses. That means washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and covering coughs and sneezes.

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WHERE YOU GET INFORMATION ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS IS IMPORTANT 

It is important to make sure the information you are getting about the coronavirus is coming directly from reliable sources like the CDC and NCDHHS. Be careful not to spread misinformation about coronavirus on social media. 

For more information visit the CDC OR NCDHHS

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NC CORONAVIRUS HOTLINE 

The state also has a special hotline set up where you can call 2-1-1 or 866-462-3821 for more information on the coronavirus. You can also submit questions online at ncpoisoncontrol.org or select chat to talk with someone about the virus.

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