There’s nothing quite like a breaking global news story to give cyber criminals bait to scam people online. The Coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, known as COVID-19, has been in the media’s spotlight for the last two months as more and more people are testing positive for the virus around the world. As the Coronavirus media story gains more traction, fear of the virus spreading faster and further starts to increase. This has resulted in people wanting to find out more information on the virus so that they can be prepared for it themselves.
Unfortunately, the abundance of new stories about the virus has made it an ideal topic for cybercriminals to use fake news stories, websites, and even fake medical companies with a ‘cure,’ to scam people out of personal information and money. Let’s discuss what these scams are, why they’re happening, and how you can protect yourself from falling for them.
What Are The Different Types Of COVID-19 Scams?
There have been a few different types of scams to arise from the COVID-19 outbreak that focus on stealing personal information and money.
Personal Data Theft
Cybercriminals that focus on stealing personal information from people such as names, addresses, ages, and bank account information, are using the topic as headline bait to launch phishing scams that deliver malicious links to hack your information.
Fake Online Retailers Offering Surgical Masks
Online scammers are creating fake websites to resemble online retailers offering surgical masks. Sometimes these retail websites will simply take your money and never send you the mask, and other times these websites are actually just a way for the scammers to steal your personal details and credit card information.
There have been a number of online promotions of companies claiming to have products or services that can detect, prevent, and even cure the COVID-19. These scammers are using these fake stories to encourage investors to by stock’s in their companies based on false investor reports and projections.
Scammers Pretending To Be Health Professionals
One of the ways that online scammers have been targeting people for personal information and money, is to pose as a health professional offering information on the Coronavirus. These headlines are framed as “Click here for updated information on Coronavirus cases near you”, and even state that people can make donations in Bitcoin to fund more research on the prevention and treatment of the virus.
A cyber criminal’s biggest weapon is clickbait.
These criminals make use of enticing headlines that trick people into clicking on them before thinking twice about it. People are fearful of the unknown and the Coronavirus is a perfect example of something that is new and the details of it are still relatively unknown. People want to find out as much information about the virus as they can so that they can feel prepared for it.
The sad reality is that there are people in the world who will use this and take advantage of the situation by scamming people out of information and money. The best thing to do in these situations is to educate yourself on what a potential scam could look like and how to stop yourself from falling for it.
- Don’t click on any suspicious links in an email sent you about the Coronavirus or COVID-19.
- Avoid ordering surgical masks from online retail stores that appear to be fake. You can read more about how to spot a fake website scam here. The masks themselves offer very little protection in terms of preventing the virus from infecting those that don’t have it.
- Avoid investing in companies that are pitching you a “make money quickly” scheme. If there is a company that is having a medical breakthrough with the Coronavirus you will likely not be hearing about it through an internet promotion.
- Don’t trust a source asking for donations to be made in cryptocurrencies or have come via an email link.
- Adjust your email settings to mark any message requests asking for personal or financial information as spam.
- Stick to getting your news from validated and legitimate media sources. For facts specifically about COVID-19, you can get your facts directly from the World Health Organization’s website here.
It is always important to be on the side of caution when it comes to the internet world. Be sure to follow legitimate news sources and keep checking our blog to be in the know on how to protect yourself from the different kinds of internet fraud.