Last week, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned individuals to remain vigilant for scams related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The virus – which as of this writing has infected over 100,000 people globally – has created an environment ripe with fear. People the world over are on the verge of near panic, perpetuated daily by the media.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, potential scammers are lining up to prey on would-be victims’ fear.
In addition to CISA, the Better Business Bureau and World Health Organization have also issued warnings about criminals who may take advantage of the outbreak in order to profit illegally.
Here’s how you can keep yourself safe:
Be Wary of Anyone Claiming to be a Healthcare Official
If you receive an email claiming to be from the CDC, WHO, or any other government office, think twice before responding.
WHO has publicly stated that it will never ask for direct donations via email, calls, texts, or other websites. To prevent phishing, they recommend that users:
- Verify the sender by checking their email address: Compare the sender’s name to the email address. Look for spelling errors, odd sentence structure, and grammar mistakes. If in doubt, try Googling the address and seeing if it links back to the person or organization it’s purported to come from.
- Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails, IMs, or texts: Never click on a link if you find any part of a message (email OR text) suspicious. You can double check the safety of a link by copying and pasting it into a web-based tool like VirusTotal.
- Avoid opening attachments in unsolicited emails: Opening attachments should be handled with care because it can give hackers total control of your phone or computer. If you receive an attachment from an address you don’t recognize, scan it with an antivirus app before opening.
- Do NOT reveal personal information via email, IM, or text: If anyone ever asks you for personal information (such as birthdate, home address, or social security number) via email, it is a huge red flag. Legitimate organizations would never try to verify personal information via electronic message.
Don’t Believe in “Miracle Cures”
People who are more susceptible to an illness, such as the elderly or those that are immunocompromised, may be tempted to take advantage of “miracle cures.”
Unfortunately, they do not exist – but that doesn’t stop scammers from trying to pedal them.
The Better Business Bureau warns, “Be suspicious of products that claim to immediately cure a wide range of diseases. No one product could be effective against a long, varied list of conditions or diseases.”
Additionally, there is no cure for coronavirus yet, so anyone claiming to have a “cure” or “vaccine” should be ignored.
Verify a Charity’s Authenticity BEFORE You Donate
According to New York Attorney General Letitia James, scammers may set up sham charity websites and crowd-funding sites that request donations for virus-relief efforts for victims.
Before you donate to a charity or purchase a product that “benefits” the cause, do your research! The organization or merchandise may not be legitimate, and it could be a scam to take your money.
Don’t believe that would-be scammers are above tugging at your heartstrings or playing on your fears to make a quick buck. They’re not.
Be wary of everything and everyone when it comes to your money and when in doubt, double (or triple) check.