As people around the world are filled with fears and concerns about COVID-19, criminals are using our fear to try and steal money and our personal information by generating social engineering scams via email, U.S. mail, text, and phone.
The U.S. Secret Service said in a statement warning the public: “Coronavirus is a prime opportunity for enterprising criminals because it plays on one of the basic human conditions … fear.” (Source: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Phishing Alert, secretservice.gov) (PDF download)
“Fear can cause normally scrupulous individuals to let their guard down and fall victim" to scams, the statement added.
What can you do to avoid being scammed? (Source: Spam and Phishing, staysafeonline.org)
- Don’t reveal personal or financial information in an email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in email.
- Before sending or entering sensitive information online, check the security of the website by:
- Looking at the web address in your browser to make sure it begins with https://
- Verifying that a closed padlock appears in your web browser. Click on the padlock to reveal the name of the company and that the “Connection is secure.”
- Pay attention to the website’s URL.Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com versus .net).
- Check to see if the site is safe by entering the URL in Google’s Transparency Report.
- If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Contact the company using information provided on an account statement, not information provided in an email. Check out the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) to learn about known phishing attacks and/or report phishing.
- Keep a clean machine. Keep all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.
- Cornonavirus relief checks: Don’t respond to texts, emails, or phone calls about checks from the government. Get the details: Want to get your Coronavirus relief check? Scammers do too. (Source: consumer.ftc.gov)
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There are no products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
- Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information. And don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
Beware of COVID-19 phishing attempts and websites (Source: it.wisc.edu)
Learn how to recognize and report phishing (Source: it.wisc.edu)
Scams to avoid: protecting your online identity (Source: it.wisc.edu)