FTC Warns of Potential Coronavirus Scams

The Coronavirus has been on the front of everyone’s mind lately, causing fear and concern across the world. This deadly virus opens up yet another way for attackers to hack you. Scammers are taking advantage of people’s curiosity and fear through various new social engineering attacks. 

What Social Engineering Attacks are they Using?

The scammers are using our fear, curiosity, and concern against us. In one breach of social trust, hackers set up websites to sell fake products.  In other attacks, they send out phishing attacks via email, text, and social media posts convincing you to click their links, open their attachments, and even donate money to fake charity websites.  It has gotten so bad in the US that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a warning notice to consumers about these scams. The FTC said to be watchful for these phishing emails and social media posts promoting awareness and prevention tips, alongside fake information about cases in your neighborhood. 

What Can We Do?

Being aware of potential cybersecurity scams such as this is the key to not getting hacked. Here are CyberHoot’s top tips for keep hackers at bay:

  1. Don’t click on any links you don’t recognize. Similar to many phishing schemes, they can lead to malware downloads onto your computer or device.
  2. Run a reputable anti-virus solution and set it to auto-update. 
  3. Be on the lookout for emails or posts claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other experts saying that have information about the virus. If you want accurate and up-to-date information, visit the CDC.gov website. 
  4. Be aware of potential scams about coronavirus, or Covid-19 vaccines. There may be ads or posts claiming prevention, treatment, or a cure for the virus. If there was a true vaccine for the coronavirus, it won’t be promoted through a sales pitch in a social media or email. 
  5. Be wary of false or fake donation websites. Make sure you do your proper research on the program you are donating to if you are interested in donating to a cause. It is important to not 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!
  6. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been warning people to be wary of investment opportunities related to the virus. They specifically warned about, “online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.”

Lessons for the Future:

Whenever there are dreadful headlines that make people fearful or alarmed, scammers treat these events as an opportunity to steal from you. Be watchful for any of these extreme events, such as the wildfires in Australia, the Covid-N19 virus, or any other major event, so as not to fall victim. These scammers play on our panic and fears hoping they cloud our judgement and so will be more likely to contribute, click, open, visit and fall victim to their emotion-based attacks.

Similar to many other cyber attacks, having strong cybersecurity awareness can significantly reduce the likelihood of you becoming a victim to an attack. 

For some more information on these scams, watch this short 2 minute video:

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