The influx of information about the novel coronavirus has created a goldmine for scammers and phishers looking to exploit the public’s fear and confusion.
Basically, these cybercriminals will send emails regarding COVID-19, making it seem like the information is coming from a reputable and recognized institute.
When you open the email or the attachments they carry, you will inadvertently end up downloading malicious software on your devices. These software will then allow scammers and phishers to gain control of the device and, with it, your personal data and other sensitive information.
Before discussing the protective measures against these COVID-related scams,let us see what the said scams might look like.
Examples of COVID-19 Scams Phishing Emails:
- Emails about health advice:
Phishers often forward emails containing ‘medical advice’ for the coronavirus. They might claim that this information is coming from scientists, doctors, or other health-care professionals from Wuhan – the supposed site of the COVID-19 origination.
You might be asked to, for instance, ‘download this PDF file containing safety measures’ or ‘click on this link to watch a renowned Chinese scientist’s interview about the coronavirus.’ AVOID downloading any such files or visiting any such links.
- Emails from the WHO or other health authorities:
These emails are designed in a way that the WHO, CDC, or other health authorities might design their emails. For example, phishers often attach fake maps claiming to provide information about the spread of COVID-19 in your areas. Once again, they ask you to download these files and attachments laden with malware and other dangerous software.
- Fake websites claiming to sell COVID-19 essentials:
Another way that cybercriminals use public apprehension is by selling them products that claim to protect you from or mitigate the symptoms of, the coronavirus disease. These products often turn out to be of mediocre quality – if you are even lucky enough to receive these products in the first place.
The US has had instances of scammers claiming to belong to Medicare or Medicaid, claiming to send over COVID-19 test kits at reduced prices – as long as the buyer paid in advance.
Tips to Protect Yourself From COVID-related Scams:
- Beware of online sources asking for personal information:
If you see that a coronavirus-themed email is asking for information such as your bank account login details, give them a wide berth. Remember that government agencies and other legitimate sources will never require such information.
- Look for any grammatical or spelling errors:
If an email contains punctuation, spelling, or grammatical errors, you can be almost certain that it is a potential phishing attack.
- Avoid emails asking for instant action:
Phishing emails force the receiver to act immediately – in other words, provide their personal information – by creating a false sense of urgency.
- Check the link or email address: If you place your mouse cursor over the link URL, you will be able to see where it will lead you should you click on it. Although sometimes this helps you spot illegitimate website address, smart scammers often create links closely resembling legitimate web addresses. Do not fall for the trap and delete such emails immediately.
To conclude, in order to prevent falling for such traps, scams, and phishing attacks, it is important to remember the sources that provide legitimate COVID-19 information. These sources include the World Health Organization, government offices, and health care agencies.