No question – the past few weeks have been insane as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We’re seeing things unfold that most of us haven’t experienced before. Entire cities have shut down, people are being quarantined, and credit unions are being forced to find different ways to serve members.
While we’ve seen the best in humanity from Dollar General setting aside the first hour they’re open to serve the elderly to multiple restaurants providing meals for kids who are out of school, we’ve also seen scammers who are exploiting people’s Coronavirus fears.
Scams you should be aware of
Android malware and ransomware
Android devices in particular have been left vulnerable to malware attacks allowing scammers to spy on you through your smartphone camera, listen to you through the microphone and go through your text messages. The scammers, suspected of operating in Libya, send out text messages with a link promising an app that will allow you to track the Coronavirus. Once you click on the text message, the malware installs itself on your phone.
DomainTools, a Seattle-based security research team, has discovered that Android users are also the target of ransomware that threatens to erase their phone. Much like malware, users are promised an app with a real-time COVID-19 tracker. The app is actually poisoned with ransomware called CovidLock that denies users access to their phone by changing the locked- screen password. It requests $100 in bitcoin within 48 hours or the phone’s contacts, pictures and videos will be erased. It also threatens to publicly leak social media accounts.
Scammers impersonating organizations
The FBI, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO) are investigating multiple claims of scammers who are sending out emails impersonating these organizations and spreading incorrect information about COVID-19. The WHO is among the most-impersonated organization in the scam campaigns. Fraudsters pretend to offer important information about the virus in an attempt to get potential victims to click on malicious links. Typically, such links can install malware, steal personal information, or attempt to capture login and password credentials.
Exploiting charitable giving
Another common type of scam going around is an attempt to tug on the heart strings and attempts to get the recipient to help fund the vaccine for children in China. Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have served cease-and-desist letters to retailers who are trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic by selling fake or misbranded products claiming to combat the disease directly.
How to protect yourself
Even though there are lots of ways to get taken advantage of, there are also lots of ways to protect yourself.
- Don’t click on links from any sources you don’t know. It could download viruses on your computer or device.
- Be aware of emails claiming to be from a government organization. If you receive an email from the WHO or CDC, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, go to the website to verify the information.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
- Be wary of giving your personal information. Legitimate organizations will not ask for any of the following:
- Full social security number
- Account or card numbers
- One-time password
- PIN information
- Usernames or passwords
- Payment through Bitcoin, money cards, gift cards, etc.
Your privacy and protection are important to us. Feel free to reach out to us if you receive communication from an entity claiming to be from our credit union to verify its legitimacy. Thank you for all you do to make our organization great and we wish you all physical and financial wellness through this trying time.
While it seems that this unfortunate epidemic has come upon us most unexpectedly, there are fraudsters out there quickly taking action and prepared to hustle unsuspecting, innocent people. If you aren’t sure of the legitimacy on a certain request, take extra steps to verify to ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself, your sensitive information, and your money.