Keep Clear of Coronavirus Scams

Whilst the world grapples with a health pandemic, cyber criminals seek to profit. It may seem shocking but these individuals are always looking for opportunities, and they see one in Coronavirus scams. This article outlines what you need to watch out for and how to stay cyber safe.

The last thing you want to read right now is that there’s another threat out there – sorry, but it’s true. Cybercriminals take advantage of fear. They take timely concerns and use them to target victims. Using the anxiety and upheaval around coronavirus is their mission.

So far, several Coronavirus scams have been reported. Google have reported blocking 18m Coronavirus Scams daily. There are examples of:

  • emails that appear to come from government health departments;
  • offering a tax refund to get people to click on malicious links;
  • memos to staff that appear to come from large employers;
  • COVID-19 test offerings from private companies;
  • fake websites promising to sell face masks or hand sanitiser;
  • soliciting donations to help fund a vaccine.

Another concern is the number of bogus websites registered with names relating to COVID-19. The site can look legit but is set up to steal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.

Spotting A Coronavirus Scam

You may get an email promising that attached information offers coronavirus safety measures. You may be offered information shared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) if you click on the link. Or you could receive a similar email pretending to be from a reputable news source, such as the BBC.

Coronavirus scam email

In another example, an email impersonating a healthcare company’s IT team asked people to register for a seminar “about this deadly virus.” Anyone who didn’t question why IT was organising the meeting clicked to register. By filling out the form, they gave their details to hackers.

Whilst email is still a favourite of the cyber criminal increasingly these attempts are made by text message.

Example of a Smishing Coronavirus scam

So called ‘Smishing’ uses similiar tactics to phishing; fear or reward, and a push for urgent action. Texts are no more secure than emails and should be treated with the same level of healthy scepticism.

What to Do

Be cautious. It’s understandable that you’re anxious, but don’t let that stop you from taking cyber precautions. You should still:

Be wary of anything that tries to play on your emotions and urges immediate action;

Question where emails or texts are coming from – remain vigilant even if the communication appears to come from a reliable source;

Hover over links before clicking them to see where they will take you – for example, in a recent fake email from the Wall Street Journal, the Web address was for the “worldstreetjournal”. Check spelling in links carefully and, if you’ve not heard of the website don’t click through to it. Search the website name, you’ll get a good idea if it’s legitimate.

You can see that the search term does not bring up a website result, Government sites index quickly and rank highly due to their domain authority. The first result which contains the actual search term identifies it as a scam.

Avoid downloading anything you didn’t ask for;

Doubt any deals that sound too good to be true (“a mask that stops the virus 99.7% of the time!”);

Ignore any communications requesting your personal information;

Don’t be suckered by fraudulent pleas for charity.

Global health organizations generally do not send out emails with advice. Instead, navigate directly to that reputable health institution for real news.

If you’re still not sure about the validity of the communication, check it out. Do so by calling or using another medium to get in touch with the “source” of the received message.

While there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19, you can put anti-virus protection on your computer. Also, make sure that you’ve applied all available security updates to keep your software safe.

How We Can Help

At Your IT Department our Managed Support contracts include our standard security package completely free of charge. With a good level of basic security in place advanced security options can be tailored to your needs. 

To beef up security and help prevent Coronavirus scams and other phishing emails consider Real-Time Email Protection and educate your first line of defence, your people, with Phishing Simulation and Security Awareness Training.

Call us on 0115 8220200.

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