No question – the past few weeks have been unprecedented as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our country. We’re seeing things unfold that most of us haven’t experienced before. Entire cities have shut down, people are being quarantined, and financial institutions are trying to find different ways to serve their members.
While we’ve seen the best in humanity from Dollar General and many local grocery stores setting aside the first hour they’re open to serve the elderly to restaurants providing meals for kids who are out of school, we’ve also seen some scammers who are exploiting the public’s Coronavirus fears.
Android Malware and Ransomware
Android devices in particular have been left vulnerable to malware attacks allowing scammers to spy on you through your smartphone’s camera, listen to you through the microphone, and go through text messages. The scammers will 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 lock 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 so far. Fraudsters will 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 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 many ways to get taken advantage of, there are also several ways to protect yourself.
- Don’t click on links from any sources you don’t know. Doing so could download viruses on your computer or device.
- Be aware of emails claiming to be from government organizations. If you receive an email from the WHO or CDC, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, go to their websites 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 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 – do not do it.
- Be wary of giving out your personal information. Legitimate organizations will not ask for any of the following:
- Full social security number
- Account or card numbers
- A one-time password
- PIN information
- Usernames or passwords
- Payment through Bitcoin, prepaid cards, or gift cards
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 the extra steps to verify and ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself, your sensitive information, and your money.
Your privacy and protection are important to us. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns regarding your financial privacy or if you think your First Financial accounts may have been compromised due to one of the above mentioned scams. Thank you for your membership with us and we wish you physical and financial wellness through this trying time.