Identity thieves are preying on the fears of individuals around the world as coverage regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, increases.
Fraudsters are exploiting the opportunity to steal the Personally Identifiable Information (PII), financial information, and even medical information, of those looking for knowledge, protection, and treatment for the viral infection.
Why are scammers taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak? The answer is, unfortunately, it’s easy. Everyone is looking for the latest updates on the pandemic.
Consumers want to know how COVID-19 will impact their shopping trips, including hard to find necessities, store hours, restaurant availability for drive-thru or takeout orders, and the like.
Parents and students are searching for guidance and educational resources while schools are closed, and teachers are looking for ways to support their students while they are out of school unexpectedly.
Employees may be wondering how to juggle the “new normal” of working from home, especially while also taking care of their children or their parents. Or, they may be looking for new sources of income if they’ve experienced a layoff because the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in closing their place of work.
Novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious respiratory illness impacting the lives of billions of people worldwide as governments issue directives for healthcare facilities to take more precautions, for businesses and schools to close, and for individuals to practice safe social distancing or quarantining as needed. While no one can predict how long the coronavirus disruption will continue, we can all take action to protect ourselves and our loved ones against these coronavirus scams targeting our identities, and our wallets.
We’ve gathered some information that can help.
- Malicious Fraudsters Using Coronavirus to Steal Your Sensitive Information
- How do I Recognize a Coronavirus Scam? Real Examples
- Tips to Protect Your Identity from Coronavirus Scams
- Stay Safe at Home from Coronavirus Scams
- Watching out for Travel Scams Related to Coronavirus Cancelations
- Protecting the Elderly from Coronavirus Scams
- Where Can I Find Real Information About the Coronavirus
Malicious Fraudsters Using Coronavirus to Steal Your Sensitive Information
Beware of the following coronavirus scams targeting your identity, including your personal, financial, and medical information:
- Fake Websites
- Phishing and Vishing
- Spoofed Government and Health Organization Communications
- Miracle Cures or Vaccines
- Fake Job Postings
- Not to be Confused for the Beer
We have created a shareable tip sheet to educate and inform individuals about the six largest COVID-19 scams: https://www.identityforce.com/six-covid-19-scams
How do I Recognize a Coronavirus Scam? Real Examples
Coronavirus scams are being created at a rapid pace. As with many fraud attempts, there are several red flags that can warn you that the offer is a scam and you should not click on any links or enter any personal or financial information.
- Insists that you act now
- Includes a request for personal, financial, or medical information
- Directs you to open attachments and click on links
- Starts off with a generic greeting and has spelling and grammatical errors throughout the message
The following are real examples of phishing emails and text messages asking individuals to click on malicious links in order to learn more about the coronavirus, offering phony products to fight against coronavirus, or any number of ways to separate their victims from their money and their sensitive personal information.
Fake CDC Phishing Email
An email pretending to be from the CDC, warning of new outbreaks of coronavirus in your area, is using links disguised as legitimate CDC sites to trick people into clicking, potentially unleashing malware, spyware, or taking them to a spoofed website and requesting personal or sensitive information.
COVID-19 Free Money or Product Text Message Scams
These text messages are from fraudsters offering free phones or money to help during the coronavirus outbreak. Keep in mind, bad actors are already making moves to “pre-approve” you for $1000 in coronavirus aid. Do not fall for these claims. Fraudsters are relying on financial fear to play off the rumors that the U.S. government will be creating a COVID-19 economic stimulus package as a way to swindle you out of your own money and financial information.
Clicking on mobile phishing links, also known as SMS phishing, or smishing, allows scammers to hack into your phone, leaving it vulnerable to malware and spyware, granting them access to all of your personal information stored within your device.
Fake Coronavirus Crisis-Related Job Posting
Scammers are targeting people with false job listings related to a growing need in the medical community because of the COVID-19 outbreak. These types of bogus job offers are a way for thieves to access your PII, such as Social Security number or bank account information, as part of the job application and onboarding process.
Fake World Health Organization (WHO) Phishing Email
A scammer pretending to be the World Health Organization, sending emails with malicious attachments. These email attachments can launch an attack on your computer, including dangerous malware, ransomware, or other trojan software designed to steal information or destroy data.
Coronavirus Fear Inducing Spam Email
An e-commerce site attempting to profit from coronavirus concerns, full of questionable links to other spammy sites. Clicking on these links may introduce malware, ransomware, take you to spoof sites that capture your payment credentials, or perpetuate the use of your email address for more spam.
Tips to Protect Your Identity from Coronavirus Scams
We are continuously watching and reporting on new fraud methods being used by identity thieves and cybercriminals. Review the following blogs for information and actionable tips to defend against a variety of scams and vulnerabilities, and protect yourself and your family from the fallout of identity theft:
- Phishing Scams: How to Protect Yourself
- Hang up on Phone Scams
- Protect Your Family’s Digital Footprint
- Mobile Device Security Tips
- Secure Smart Devices
- Social Media Identity Theft Tips
Stay Safe at Home from Coronavirus Scams
As everyone across the U.S. is being encouraged to stay home, individuals and families are looking for ways to keep entertained. Scammers know that being stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak is the perfect time to pose as streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, and they are sending text messages and emails falsely advertising “free premium service” due to social distancing.
Links within these fake messages may contain malware that harms your devices and steals your personal information. Submitting your payment credentials through these links may also put you at risk for credit card fraud and other financial crimes.
Watching out for Travel Scams Related to Coronavirus Cancelations
With travel restrictions in place globally, travelers are attempting to sort out refunds for previously booked trips and companies are struggling to deal with the fallout. Flight and cruise deals are popping up with extreme discounts, but not all are legitimate. When a price or an offer seems too good to be true, it often is. Always book directly through the airline or hotel website to avoid being misled by fraudulent third-party travel sites.
Before booking your next trip during the coronavirus crisis, consider the company’s cancelation policy before submitting your payment and read the fine print in the travel insurance policy. You may need to cancel or reschedule your travel plans and will want to ensure you can get your money back or receive credit for future travel.
Protecting the Elderly from Coronavirus Scams
The global senior population has been declared the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic. Scammers are targeting the elderly with phone call scams claiming to be fake charities, health organizations offering vaccines, or house cleaning services to help sanitize against the coronavirus.
Remind your loved ones that they should never give our personal, financial, or medical information over the phone. Legitimate government agencies are not calling individuals to “reserve” a COVID-19 vaccine, and they are not offering a check or direct transfer of money as a fiscal stimulus.
Where Can I Find Real Information About the Coronavirus?
With news and advice being freely — and often questionably — shared all over social media, it can be difficult to wade through the noise surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. It is important to only listen to genuine, credible, and expert sources dedicated to sharing the latest updates on the pandemic.
These trusted official government websites are dedicated to sharing the following information related to novel coronavirus (COVID-19):
- Symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus
- What to do if you believe you have the coronavirus
- Steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Why coronavirus is so dangerous
- How COVID-19 is treated
- What are the latest updates on coronavirus (COVID-19)
- How the coronavirus spreads and how to protect yourself
- Total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the world
- Latest travel bans related to COVID-19
- How to keep work, schools, and businesses safe during coronavirus outbreak
- Recommendations on social distancing and coronavirus quarantines
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – https://www.cdc.gov/
World Health Organization (WHO) – https://www.who.int/
USA.gov – https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus/
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – https://www.fda.gov/home
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – https://www.sec.gov/investor/alerts
IdentityForce delivers ongoing monitoring, rapid alerts, and recovery services to help protect against ID theft. If you think you are a victim of identity theft, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team to learn more about how we can help protect all that you’ve built.