Coronavirus Scams Alert

Watch Out for These Coronavirus Related Scams

March 20, 2020
Tim RussellBy Tim Russell
Technology Services Manager

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning Americans of scammers trying to profit off the fears surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Don't let these criminals get the best of you. 

In this article, we’ll show you examples of scams that are circulating, along with ways to protect yourself.

“Phishing” Emails Posing as Health Organizations

You may receive a fake “phishing” email  claiming to be from a trusted medical or health organization, trying to get you to click on a dangerous link or open a malware attachment. Watch out for messages from impostors pretending to be the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and other trustworthy institutions like your bank or credit card company.

Example: Fake Phishing Email This email is not legitimate. Note the suspicious "who-pc.com" address from the malicious sender.

 

According to web security firm “KnowBe4,” some common phishing emails include subject line topics like these:

  • Check an updated Coronavirus map in your city
  • Coronavirus Infection warning from your local school district
  • CDC or World Health Organization emails (with a copied CDC or WHO logo)
  • Keeping your children safe from Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Vaccine Announced; here's how to get it

These are clickbait subject lines, designed to lure you into clicking on a link or photo in the body.

What you can do: Think before you click. Ignore any unsolicited email or message that asks for your personal information or tries to get you to click on a link. If you feel you must respond, reach out to the institution on your own to verify the message, using a different method — not email. 

Fake Coronavirus Map Websites

A dangerous website has popped up that imitates the official Johns Hopkins COVID-19 map (a legitimate dashboard tracking the global Coronavirus case count). The attackers' fake map looks like the real thing, but actually contains a type of spyware that will steal the personal information stored in your browser.

Example: Fake Coronavirus Map

Screenshot: This fake website looks like the official Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Tracking Map, except for the suspicious URL in the upper left window, "Corona-Virus-Map.com."

 

In fact, fake Coronavirus map sites are popping up and getting sold on the dark web for as little as $200 each, according to cybersecurity firm Krebs.

What you can do: For the most up-to-date information about the virus, take it upon yourself to directly visit the CDC website along with your local and regional health authorities' official sites. Also, make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up-to-date.

False Vaccines, Treatments & Supplies

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are currently no approved vaccines or drugs proven to cure the virus. Also be on the lookout for false products claiming to treat or prevent the COVID-19 virus. Fake products that have already surfaced include teas, essential oils, colloidal silver and other “natural remedies” that have no evidence to support their claims. Here is a list of companies that have received FTC warning letters for false coronavirus-related advertising.

The FTC is also warning about online sellers who claim to have in-demand products, like hand sanitizer, rubber gloves or toilet paper. You place an order, submit your payment — but you never get your shipment. Remember anyone can set up shop online under almost any name (including scammers).

Fake Text Messages
Scammers aren’t just pedaling false products online. They’re also sending malicious text messages with links to fake supplies and potentially malware. (Source: Forbes)

 

What you can do: Before you buy something online, check out the seller by searching online for the company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” And when it comes to the latest pandemic headlines, avoid misinformation by paying attention to trusted authorities — not online advertisements or "click bait" headlines.

Fraudulent Charities

Do your homework when it comes to making donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Before you donate, verify a charity at Give.org (the Better Business Bureau's charity checker). When you donate, do it directly on the charity's official website or by calling their listed phone number.

Fake Charity Example
This fake charity email scam uncovered by WeLiveSecurity pretends to help fund a vaccine for children in China.

 

Let's stay healthy, together.

We want to provide solutions that matter, when you need them most. Keep up with the latest updates on our Coronavirus Information Page.