Protect Yourself from Online Scammers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, fraudsters and online criminals can take advantage of people’s fear and uncertainty. Higher Information Group (HIG) is reminding citizens to protect themselves from criminals taking advantage of the pandemic. Practicing online security and being extra cautious can help avoid exposure of personal financial information or computers getting infected with malware or ransomware.
Some of the more common schemes may include:
Counterfeit Emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) – Always avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in emails until you’ve double or triple-checked the source. Check the source through separate channels. Criminals use email to deliver malware or ransomware to steal personal data or demand payment in order to unlock your computer.
Malicious Website and Apps – There are cases of websites and applications being positioned as tracking COVID-19 cases worldwide. These can be a vehicle for delivering malware and ransomware.
Phishing Emails – Be wary of any email asking you to confirm your personal information. Phishing emails look like they are coming from coming from a reputable source. They can trigger an emotional reaction by asking for information to receive your stimulus check, make a charitable contribution online, sell fake COVID-19 testing kits, provide a new work-from-home policy from your employer and more.
Work From Home Opportunities – At a time when many Americans have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported that more fraudsters are using the lucrative “work from home opportunities” approach in online ads or emails.
“Scammers are attempting to use websites and apps that appear to offer useful health information or access to safety products like masks or hand sanitizer. We have even seen a case of a fraudulent email appearing to come from the employer asking employees to download and sign new in-house safety measures related to COVID-19,” said John Frisch, President and CEO of HIG. “It’s unfortunate that criminals are exploiting this crisis, but we’re hopeful that if we continue to share reminders and call attention to these schemes, fewer people will fall prey.”
Here are some things you can do to stay secure and clear of scammers:
Keep Your Software Up to Date – Many security breaches occur on older systems. If operating systems and web browsers are updated, they can catch potential threats before they are harmful. Newer devices often update automatically. If something is causing a delay in updates, such as not enough space on your phone, be sure to address the issue.
- Keep Accounts Locked Down – Security measures such as two-factor authentication and eliminating links from third-party accounts to main accounts reduce exposure of your sensitive data. For example, be wary of having a credit card attached to your Facebook account.
- Be Suspicious of Links and Attachments – While it may take a few extra steps, verifying information independently to ensure it is legitimate can save you a lot of trouble.
- Never Supply Login Credentials, Social Security Numbers or Financial Data through Email – Legitimate sources will never ask you to send personal information in an email.
- Visit Reliable Sources Directly for Information about COVID-19 – Some of the best places to find answers about Coronavirus include:
If you believe that you are a victim of an online scam or if you want to report suspicious activity, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov
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