Today we are all pretty well-informed on the necessity of washing hands and wearing masks. While these may be the most critical takeaways of the on-going pandemic, we now need to be wary of the absolute necessity the personal information we share on calls, apps and our laptops, and who might be trying to take advantage of the information.
Coronavirus scams are spreading nearly as fast as the virus itself. As of May 21, AARP reports that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 29,600 fraud complaints related to the outbreak. Victims have reported losing $38.6 million, with a median loss of $470.
Never have we been so attractive as targets for fraudsters and scammers as we are right now. That’s because the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic has created a breeding ground for scammers. With millions of people are filing new claims for unemployment benefits or being required to work from home, our personal tech devices have become an attractive target for those looking to instill even more fear and stress in our daily life.
Aligning with government agencies to warn the public and focus on online scams; where many of us are the most vulnerable. Google has published the following set of guidelines to help you spot and avoid these scams, so that we can all stay safe online. Click here for Google’s tip sheet.
Visit authoritative websites directly
Scammers often pose as well-known, trusted and authoritative sources. Directly visit sources like WHO.int (link) or CDC.gov (link) to get the latest factual information about COVID‑19.
Know how scammers may reach you
Scammers are taking advantage of the increase in COVID‑19 communications by disguising their scams as legitimate messages about the virus. Alongside emails, scammers may also use text messages, automated calls and malicious websites to reach you.
Be cautious of requests for personal or financial information
If you receive an unsolicited request for personal or financial information, take extra time to evaluate the message. Scammers will often ask you to input login information, or share bank details and addresses with them. They may also request payment via bank transfer or virtual currency.
Donate directly through nonprofit organizations
Some scams take advantage of goodwill, requesting donations for COVID‑19 relief efforts. Do some research to make sure the nonprofit is legitimate ─ like checking if they are registered with Charity Navigator.
Scammers also pose as legitimate nonprofits. To be more confident your money will reach a nonprofit, you can donate directly through their website ─ rather than clicking a link sent to you.
Double check links and email addresses before clicking
Fake links often imitate established websites by adding extra words or letters. If it says something like “click here,” hover over the link or long press the text to check the URL for mistakes ─ being careful not to click it. Misspelled words or random letters and numbers in the URL or email address may also indicate a scam.
Search to see if it’s been reported
If somebody has sent you a fraudulent message, it’s likely they’ve sent it to other people as well. Copy and paste the email address, phone number, or most suspicious portion of the message into a search engine to check if it’s been reported by others.
Add an extra layer of security to your account
For extra protection online, add two-factor authentication — also known as 2-step verification — to your accounts. This provides another layer of security by requiring two steps to gain access to your account: for example, something you know (your password) and something you physically have on hand (like your phone or a security key).
If you see something suspicious, report it – https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus
There’s so much information coming at us from every direction during this situation, and there are people looking to take advantage of that. We can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your personal information private. We will continue to stay on top of the latest news and will share them in future newsletters. Above all, stay safe in all things.