Whenever a public crisis arises, all sorts of people with malicious intent, including hackers and scammers are always ready to take advantage of the fear in the air. With the spread of the novel coronavirus, it is a good idea to be alert and careful of modifications of the same old malware and phishing attacks — especially if you’re spending more time working from home.
A recent release from the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers some solid advice on what to watch out for.
“Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes,” CISA said in the release. “Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19.”
The fears generated by the coronavirus could easily make one susceptible to certain online scams. Here are 3 coronavirus related online scams to avoid:
During a disease outbreak or natural disaster, it is only natural that we would want to open our wallets to the less fortunate through charitable giving and donation. However, before we follow that impulse, we need to take some extra few moments to research to see if the charity isn’t a funnel into the bank account of a predatory impersonator.
Taking a few moments to review the Federal Trade Commission’s Charity Scams page could save you the heartbreak of an emptied checking account. You can also improve your odds by searching sites like guidestar.org and give.org for the name of your charity before donating.
Phishing, is a cybercrime in which targets are contacted through email, text messages or telephone, by someone posing as a legitimate institution in order to lure targets to give sensitive data (eg. passwords, personal information, credit card details).
Unsolicited emails that prompt you to click on an attachment should always raise a red flag when you’re checking your inbox. These classic email phishing scams still lure many ignorant users into downloading malicious items and giving up their login information every day.
Among other steps to create a safer inbox, CISA recommends turning off your email client’s option to automatically download attachments. Also remember, never reveal personal or financial information in an email, or even respond to requests for it.
There are many random Facebook groups offering supposed home cures for COVID-19, long Twitter threads from self-appointed health experts and cleverly designed websites, as well as dozens of other ways misinformation can lure unsuspecting victims into a position of vulnerability. While it can be hard to sort the solid information from the illegitimate ones, here are a couple of ways:
- By clicking the “about” section of a Facebook group, you can see whether that group has changed its name multiple times to reflect new national crisis — a sure sign that the group is trawling for an audience rather than promoting reliable news.
- Keep an eye on official sources on Twitter, including the accounts of trusted news sites and their news reporters, and avoiding political operatives where possible.
- If a site claims to be an official government publication, check the URL to see if it ends in .gov.
For more tips on avoiding internet scams during the novel coronavirus pandemic, check out CISA’s official tipsheet.