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COVID-19 Scams to Be Aware of to Keep Your Information Safe
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans have already lost $13.4 million in 2020 through scams related to the coronavirus. Scammers and fraudsters are taking advantage of people’s fear and information overload to steal money, credit card numbers, and other personal information. Several common scams are occurring during this time. Knowing what they are is the first step towards protecting yourself and your close ones from being a victim.
Travel and Vacation Scams
With nearly all travel and vacations coming to a halt over the past couple of months, people are concerned about their upcoming trips. Scammers are using this as an opportunity to steal personal information. By sending emails or making phone calls to people promising refunds on their upcoming trips, the scammers often succeed in their phishing attempts. They are stealing sensitive data like credit card numbers and in some cases, even getting people to pay them for bogus travel insurance.
There are a few ways to avoid this scam. First, if you do not have any upcoming travel plans, then the email or phone call should be an immediate red flag. Do not respond or click on any links. If you do have upcoming plans, do not click any links in the emails if you are uncertain about its origin and always double-check the exact domain the email is sent from. If you have any doubt at all, go to your travel company’s or hotel’s website and reach out to them directly. You should not be asked to verify personal information as they should already have that on file.
COVID-19 Real-Time Data Tracking Scam
This scam promises people the ability to track coronavirus data in real-time but instead installs malicious software on the target’s device. This scam seems to be most targeted to Android users. The scammers text a link to a person’s device stating that they can click the link to track COVID-19 data on a real-time map. However, clicking the link installs malware that allows the scammers access to the camera, microphone, and text history on the device. The scammers can then easily steal any sensitive or personal information contained on the device.
The best way to avoid this scam is to never click on a link that comes from someone you do not know or doesn’t look like something the person you know might send. Especially if the message plays on your emotion of fear and conveys a sense of urgency, it is likely to be a scam. Never click links from unknown senders and never click a suspicious link even if it comes from someone you know.
Stimulus Check Scams
With many Americans receiving stimulus checks from the federal government, scammers have a large opportunity for phishing and stealing personal information. The scam comes in a few different varieties. First, scammers are sending emails to people and telling them they can track their stimulus payment. This leads to a phishing website where the target is asked for personal info such as Social Security number, name, address, or other information. In other cases, scammers are gaining access to the target’s banking information by promising to direct deposit their stimulus check.
Remember that neither the IRS nor any government agency will ever ask for your SSN, credit card, or banking information over the phone. IRS communications will come through the mail. Again, if you are unsure, reach out to the IRS directly to determine whether they are truly attempting to contact you.
Online Shopping Scams
Many household essentials like hand sanitizer, toilet tissue, and paper towels have become very hard to find at retail stores. This has led to many people looking online for these items. Scammers are now using fake retail websites to steal data and money from people by tricking them into thinking they are buying these household items.
When buying online, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable website. Avoid clicking links from unknown senders because you may be redirected to a malicious site attempting to steal your information. Also, be sure that the website you are using is secure before entering any payment or personal information. You can check this by looking for the secure “lock” in the address bar of your browser and the URL that starts with “https://” instead of the non-secure “http://.”
Medicare Benefit Scams
Scammers are also calling Medicare recipients and promising them COVID-19 Medicare benefits packages, such as masks, test kits, and other items. However, they are telling the victim that they must verify their Social Security number, credit card, or banking information before they can send out the kit. The scammer then steals the victim’s information and uses it for malicious purposes.
Remember that a government agency will never contact you via phone to ask for personal information. Most reputable companies will never call and ask for this information either. If you are unsure about a company, contact the Better Business Bureau, or do an internet search to see if you can find anything about them. If you are unsure whether to provide your information, your best option is to not give it out until you have verified that it is a legitimate request.
While scammers are taking advantage of the current situation, there are several ways to keep yourself protected. Be aware of the scams mentioned above and remember the tips to spot other scams and keep your information safe. Any time you are unsure, end the conversation and reach out to the company directly via their published contact information. Also, remember to never click on suspicious links even if they come from a known source. We like to keep track of specific COVID-19 scams through TripWire. They issue weekly updates on the latest scams.
Feeling ready to make your Internet browsing and email use even more secure at and off work? Register for 3nom’s Free Security Awareness Training lead by our in-house security experts. Stay safe physically and digitally.
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