Identity thieves are playing on the fears of individuals around the world as coverage regarding the Coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, increases. Fraudsters are exploiting the opportunity to steal the Personally Identifiable Information (PII), financial information, and even medical information, of those looking for knowledge, protection, and treatment for the viral infection.
As easy as it can be to get swept up in the constant barrage of news, it is important to also stay on alert when it comes to protecting your identity and that of your family, as well as your financial well-being.
Stay Vigilant Against These Five Scams
Beware of the following scams designed to manipulate our fears in order to steal money, personal, and business information:
Cyberthieves are creating websites that collect your personal information under the guise of providing you with important Coronavirus updates. They have also set up donation and investment sites for victim care or emergency response plans that may seem legitimate but direct your money into the criminal’s pockets.
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Fraudulent e-commerce vendors are promoting the sale of protective face masks, sanitizers, test kits, and other high demand items — often collecting payment and credit card information without shipping the item.
Phishing and Vishing
As individuals and businesses attempt to keep up with the latest news, they may be more vulnerable to falling for fake Coronavirus update emails, texts, and voicemails that include alerts. Be careful not to click on suspicious links as they may be riddled with malware. As employees frequently check for updates on work conditions, conference and event status, they may be tricked into clicking links that capture sensitive business and customer information.
Spoofed Government and Health Organization Communications
Scammers disguising themselves as government and health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are contacting individuals by email, asking them to visit a “protected” site — requiring personal information to set up a user account — to view safety tips. Or, they are trying to trick recipients to open email attachments, or are redirecting them to spoofed (or fake) websites and asking for financial details to make donations.
On Sunday, March 15, 2020, cybercriminals hacked into The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and posed as the nation’s system to send out text messages warning individuals of a national quarantine and lockdown. The National Security Council posted a Tweet the same day, confirming that the rumors spread by the text message were fake.
Checking for facts directly from the legitimate government organizations is always your best bet, and scam warnings related to Coronavirus and others, are occurring regularly:
Miracle Cures or Vaccines
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) jointly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that there are “no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus.” All medical advice and treatment should be directed by a medical professional. False miracle health claims are a rouse to collect your personal financial and medical details — information that can be used to commit medical identity theft.
Not to be Confused for the Beer
Because of its name, people may believe the viral disease is spread by drinking the popular beer, Corona. “Coronavirus” is the layman’s term for COVID-19. Search trends are showing an uptick in searches for “corona beer virus.” Beware of emails or websites that attempt to link the two together, in a humorous or serious way, to get you to enter personal information to reveal more details, jokes, or images.
Tips to Protect Yourself from Scams
- Report scam right away to your bank and the FTC. If you believe you have purchased a fake item or donated to a fake charity, report it to your credit card company immediately.
- Hang up on suspicious phone calls. If phone calls request that you share any personal or medical information, just hang up.
- Do not enter your medical information into a suspicious site. Beware of medical identity theft and keep a close eye on all the explanation of benefits you receive to make sure they are legitimate.