Any time a topic of global interest comes up, web-based scams taking advantage of them are soon to follow. It’s happened during natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and more.
The Coronavirus outbreak is no exception. As we all try to learn more about this devastating illness, and where it’s been located, online searches – and our own desires to help others - make us vulnerable to cyber threats. In fact, the FTC has already warned of identifiable “click bait” scams related to Coronavirus subject matter.
Common Cyber Threats
Typically, online scammers use tactics like the following to leverage high-profile events so they can
either solicit money fraudulently, or install malware on computers:
- Advertising/posting links on social media, directing users to fake charities, or other fraudulent web sites portraying relief efforts, or selling products. Many new web domains using “Coronavirus” and related terms such as “help,” “relief,” and “victims” have already been spotted by the Center for Internet Security.
- Sending phishing emails, again with links to fraudulent sites, or with attachments that will install malware when opened.
How to Protect Yourself
- Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments. Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
- If you receive spam emails or texts – meaning any from sites/lists you do not already subscribe to, and in some cases those that appear to be forwarded from a friend – do not open them, or click on any links or attachments inside.
- Use trusted sources—such as legitimate, government websites Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov) and World Health Organization (Who.int), — for up-to-date, fact-based information about COVID-19.
- Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on Charity Scams for more information (consumer.ftc.gov).
Be careful on sites that claim to offer pictures and videos related to the Coronavirus outbreak; these may be ploys to deliver malware to your computer when you open or download them.
Never give out personal details or payment information via email, or to a site you are not already familiar with.
- Be extremely cautious on social media. Do not click links to donation sites (including “crowdfunding” resources), or “click bait” types of articles, even if they appear to come from trusted sources. Some fraudulent sites are “spoofs” made to look like news sites you may already recognize, but they actually redirect to a different domain.
Safe Places to Look
Rather than clicking on social media links when looking for the latest information on Coronavirus, simply open your web browser and go directly to sites you trust – such as legitimate, government websites: Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov) and World Health Organization (Who.int).