Don’t Fall for COVID-19 Scams: Three Ways to Protect Yourself

While COVID-19 continues to create an unprecedented amount of uncertainty and anxiety, hackers are capitalizing on the opportunity.

Scammers have taken advantage of the pandemic by creating phony websites and emails that claim to provide useful information but instead aim to compromise personal information through ransomware and phishing.

Most of the attacks come under the guise of valuable information on the virus like data regarding treatments and vaccines. Spear-phishing, the act of obtaining personal information while impersonating a trusted source, could be especially dangerous as many employees work from home.

The Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings Off Site Link to a handful of companies offering products that claimed to treat or cure COVID-19. Right now there are no known vaccines or treatments for the virus (Check the FDA's website Off Site Link for the latest on treatment + vaccine development).

Most recently, unemployment fraud has been an issue. Scammers are trying to obtain personal information to apply for someone else’s unemployment benefits.

Here are three things you can do to avoid being hacked.

Employ a Healthy Dose of Skepticism

Don’t open suspicious emails. If you’ve received an email from someone you don’t know or weren’t expecting, your best bet is to delete it or report it to your IT team. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Phishing emails often contain misspelled words and don’t read properly. They might also ask for personal information you wouldn’t give out otherwise. You should be especially wary if you receive an attachment. And if you do receive a dubious attachment, don’t open it.

If you receive requests for banking or financial information, contact your bank or the Federal Trade Commission Off Site Link. Contact legitimate sources if you have questions; they will likely be able to clear up any confusion.

If you are currently working and think someone else is trying to obtain unemployment benefits on your behalf, contact your human resources department or your state’s unemployment agency.

Use Reputable Sources

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Off Site Link and World Health Organization (WHO) Off Site Link are reputable sources for information on COVID-19 developments. Head to their websites for information regarding the outbreak instead of relying on social media or unfamiliar reference points.

The New York Times Off Site Link, Johns Hopkins University Off Site Link and local state health departments will also have up-to-date information you can count on. The Star Tribune Off Site Link has dropped its paywall on coronavirus-related content.

Using fraudulent sources of information could lead to being hacked. It could also unnecessarily increase your anxiety about the situation.

Stay Informed

The 24/7 news cycle can be overwhelming. And a global health crisis like COVID-19 only adds to the information-overload that comes with being constantly connected.

Break through the noise by sticking to a small number of reputable outlets to get your news. Stay informed, but don’t go overboard. Visit the FTC’s website for more information on coronavirus scams. Off Site Link And rely on the experts when it comes to information on COVID-19’s spread and treatment.

Note, too, that some hackers are disguising their emails to look like they are from reputable sources. Kaspersky Labs reports Off Site Link that one phishing scheme claims to be from the CDC, but uses an incorrect domain: cdc-gov(dot)org instead of cdc.gov.

Bottom line: Keep your eyes peeled for anything that looks amiss.