The coronavirus has disrupted many aspects of daily living and precipitated changes that touch all facets of our working and personal lives. As we seek information from trusted sources and rely more than ever on online platforms to communicate with friends, family and loved ones, criminals will attempt to capitalize on our changed circumstances. Established cyber security scams, such as spoofed websites and phishing emails, are being repurposed to offer health information or safety resources while delivering malware or stealing personal information.
Recent cyber scams include:
A downloadable app for tracking coronavirus cases, which resembles maps created by legitimate public health institutions but contains malware that can infect or freeze devices.
Phishing scams, in which fraudulent emails that appear to come from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control or charitable organizations request personal information or urge recipients to click on malware-infected links.
Robocalls offering coronavirus treatments or assistance with government stimulus payments, in which personal information is requested.
Despite these concerns, you can protect your personal information and devices by following a few essential cyber security practices and by familiarizing yourself with the most prevalent types of cyber crimes.
How to proactively protect your personal information and devices
Only use wireless networks that are secured and require a password. Be sure to change the password on your home router from the factory setting, and create a new password that is at least eight characters long.
Restrict your use of all public Wi-Fi networks. If you must rely on a public network, use a virtual private network (VPN).
Don't fall for the bait. Verify the URL of any site you visit, particularly if you are loading it for the first time in your browser.
Don't respond to emails from unknown senders or click on any links embedded in these messages.
Verify messages even if you know the recipient. Cyber criminals use social engineering to impersonate people you may know through email or social messaging. Call the sender if you see anything suspicious in the message.
Keep your systems and software updated. System and software updates ensure that the latest security patches are installed on your devices.
Federal Trade Commission's Coronavirus Scam Tips for tips on how to recognize potential scams and learn more about how to keep your accounts safe.
Know the best ways to avoid being scammed
Don’t respond: If you’re not 100% certain of the source of the call, email or text, then hang up the phone, don’t click on the link in the email and don’t reply to the text message.
Don’t trust caller ID or answer phone calls from unknown numbers: If you recognize the caller ID but the call seems suspicious, hang up the phone. Phone numbers can be easily spoofed to appear to be from a legitimate caller.
Don’t give out your information: Never provide any personally identifiable information unless you’re absolutely certain the person and reason are legitimate.
Research and validate: If the individual or organization seems suspicious, make sure the request being made is legitimate by calling the organization through an official number from their website or consulting with a trusted family member or friend.