For scammers and fake news mongers, the new coronavirus has been a bonanza. Taking advantage of the global thirst for information about the outbreak, these people are exploiting others to make money and steal information.
Cybersecurity experts are warning the public to be careful and vigilant about such scams and frauds. The scare caused by fake coronavirus news and scams can be more harmful than the actual effects of the pandemic.
World Health Organization recently mentioned that the globe is fighting an “infodemic” as well as an epidemic. Being officially a pandemic now, the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to cause lockdowns, travel bans, panic buying, and financial market turmoil.
Everything looks unpredictable these days as we experience this unprecedented global event. The scammers have taken notice of the panic and fear of common people and without wasting time, they are consistently coming up with ways to benefit from exploiting people’s fears.
Recently, Florida reported about a scam where people in white lab coats are approaching homes, pretending to be from the state’s health department or the CDC. In reality, these are mostly thieves who try to rob the house once they get inside, sometimes by force.
There are various ways in which these scams are taking place including phishing emails, malicious websites, and illegitimate or non-existent charities.
Some of the examples of the scam tactics used in the recent times during the COVID-19 outbreak are:
- Scammers pose as Individuals or businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until you make an online payment to them.
- Scam websites that claim about supplying infectious disease-related products like face masks. They rob people who are desperate to stock up on masks/sanitizers and then send them nothing.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Fraudsters pretending to be medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
Organizations like WHO have provided advice on how it communicates, and provides details of what it will or will not do in official emails. One of the most important points to note reads:
“Make sure the sender has an email address such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. If there is anything other than ‘who.int’ after the ‘@’ symbol, this sender is not from WHO. WHO does not send email from addresses ending in ‘@who.com’, ‘@who.org’ or ‘@who-safety.org’, for example.”
WHO also advises to check the URL for any links in emails and that all web content will start with ‘https://www.who.int/’ and that no other domain is used. If there are any doubt, then directly type the address into your browser.
It is crucial to understand that WHO has not randomly started to email people who are not subscribed to a service.
You can visit the dedicated WHO site or the sites of your respective national health care institutions, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States or the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.
Beware of online fraudsters who pretend to offer vital information about the coronavirus in an attempt to get potential victims to click on malicious links. Check out some useful tips from FTC (Federal Trade Commission) here.
Be careful and don’t fall for fake emails pretending to be from reputed names. As with protecting yourself and others from COVID-19 itself, being vigilant and careful can keep a bad situation from getting much worse.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
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