Protect yourself from COVID-19 scams
Don't let scammers take advantage of you during the pandemic.
By Lorelei Yang, Countable News
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that scammers often take advantage of crisis situations. The current COVID-19 pandemic is, sadly, no exception. Although ransomware groups have promised not to hit hospitals amidst the pandemic, hackers and scammers haven’t collectively decided that it would be wrong to victimize individuals during the current crisis.
Here are a few COVID-19 scams to watch out for:
Phishing attacks looking to exploit fears about the virus
- Cybercriminals send emails or texts, claiming they're from legitimate organizations with information about the novel coronavirus. But the emails contain attachments or embedded links that will download malware onto your device.
- Malware could allow cybercriminals to take control of your computer, log your keystrokes to obtain your passwords and other sensitive information, or otherwise access your personal information and financial data.
- Potential fake emails may look like CDC alerts, health advice emails, or workplace policy emails.
- To avoid falling victim to a phishing email, be sure to check email addresses or links, be wary of online requests for personal information, watch out for spelling and grammatical mistakes, and avoid acting upon emails that insist you act immediately.
- While it would be nice to have a cure available, the fact is that there still isn’t a proven COVID-19 cure. (Yes, vaccine trials are underway, but results are months away.)
- This hasn’t stopped scammers from running ads purporting to sell coronavirus cures. Don’t fall for these schemes—any and all COVID-19 cures will eventually be available through licensed medical professionals.
- While there are many worthy ways to donate to the fight against COVID-19, there are also scammers attempting to raise money for themselves through illegitimate fundraising campaigns meant to benefit themselves rather than those who need help at this time.
- Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation: if someone wants donations by cash, gift card, or wire transfer, don’t donate.
Spoofed government and health organization communications
Sometimes, criminals will also spoof legitimate organizations’ websites with links that are one or two letters off.
To protect against these efforts, know the URLs for important governmental and nongovernmental organization sites:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – https://www.cdc.gov
- World Health Organization (WHO) – https://www.who.int
- USA.gov – https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – https://www.fda.gov/home
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – https://www.sec.gov/investor/alerts
Medical identity theft
- Given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are efforts to steal individuals’ medical information for medical identity theft scams.
- To protect against these schemes, refrain from entering your medical information into suspicious sites. Also keep a close eye on all explanations of benefits you receive to ensure they’re legitimate.
Need to report a COVID-19 scam or attempt fraud?
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Report it to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
- If it's a cyber scam, submit your complaint through https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
(Image Credit: iStockphoto.com / Kameleon007)
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