Phishing and Other Types of Scams on the Rise
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Read Time: 5 mins
Phishing and other types of scams are on the rise due to the health crisis, COVID-19. Scammers are seeking to prey on the public’s fear and economic impact of the virus. Many scams are popping up from charity scams asking for donations, fraudsters disguising themselves as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to scams claiming to sell products that prevent or cure the virus.
A phishing scam is a fraudulent attempt used to steal your personal information such as PIN, social security number, credit card number, or bank account information. This type of scam can appear in emails, internet pop-ups, phone calls, or text messages. The scammers try to lure you in by disguising themselves as a legitimate business and asking for personal information. The more aware you are of the different types of scams, the less likely you will become a victim of fraud.
Types of scams and ways you can protect yourself.
The U.S. Government will issue economic stimulus checks to most Americans to help during these difficult times. Scams and fraudulent activity are already being created to take advantage of the most vulnerable. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns against scams offering fake stimulus checks in exchange for personal information.
Be aware that no government agency or representative will call or email you asking for your social security number, birth date, bank account number, or credit card number. If anyone tells you they are required to collect this information or to collect a fee so that you can receive your check, it’s a scam. Don’t respond.
1. Text Message Scams.
Scam artists use deceptive text messages or SMS (short message service) phishing, also called smishing or SMS phishing, to entice consumers into providing their personal or financial information. How does it work? A text message is sent to consumers impersonating a legitimate business, financial institution, or government agency to entice you to click a link and provide your personal information. If you receive this type of text and click on the link, it may infect your device with malware or a virus that steals the information and data stored on your device. Responding to these unsolicited text messages by calling the number or replying to the message confirms that your phone number is active, and it may lead to more unsolicited text messages. So, please don’t respond.
2. Phone Call Scams.
Technology has made it easy for scammers to fake or spoof caller ID information. Keep this in mind and know that the name and number you see displayed on your phone’s screen aren’t always accurate. If you receive a call from a familiar name or number urgently asking for personal information or money, hang up. If you think it may be a legitimate call, hang up and call the number back to make sure it is a legitimate or genuine call.
If you receive a robocall, a pre-recorded message, don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from Coronavirus COVID-19 treatments to work-at-home schemes. Don’t follow the prompts and press a button to speak to someone or to be taken off the call list because this could lead to more unwanted calls. The best thing to do is not to engage and do not respond.
To help block unsolicited calls from telemarketers and scammers, you can register for the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call List.
3. Email Scams.
Please read your emails carefully. During these times, many legitimate businesses are sending emails with updates about Coronavirus COVID-19 and its impact on their businesses. Be watchful for emails claiming to be from the CDC or experts saying they have information about the virus.
If you receive a suspicious email, look for misspelled words and poor grammar. Also, check the spelling in the hyperlink by hovering over it to reveal the URL. If the URL has a misspelled word or if it redirects you to a different website, do not respond to the email. Also, be cautious about opening attachments or clicking on links from sources you don’t know. Opening attachments from unknown sources could have a virus or spamware that could attack your device and steal your personal information. The best thing to do is not to respond and do not open unfamiliar emails.
4. Online and Internet Scams.
Don’t fall prey to those “too good to be true’’ online offers. There are many online scams out there, including new ones that are preying on the fears of COVID-19. Unfortunately, there are some vendors online claiming to offer vaccinations and home test kits to treat or cure the Coronavirus COVID-19. Currently, there are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, or FDA-authorized home test kits available for this virus.
Also, be aware of online sellers claiming to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. Do your research when shopping online and make sure you know who you’re buying from before you give your personal information.
5. Ask questions, and get a second opinion.
Scammers will try to pressure you to decide something or make a purchase in a hurry, and they may even try to threaten you. Don’t give in to the pressure. Take the time to speak to someone else and ask questions. Call the business, financial institution, or charity to confirm the legitimacy of the request before you give any personal information or money.
6. Sign up for free scam alerts.
New scams are popping up all the time and in different ways. You can stay in the know by signing up for free scam alerts to get the latest tips and advice from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
What to do if you fall victim to a scam?
- Change your passwords immediately on your computer and all other password-protected websites that you visited around the time you received the scam message.
- Immediately notify one of the three major credit reporting agencies to let them know your account may have been compromised and request to place a fraud alert on your account or freeze your credit. Also, it’s a good practice to review your credit report at least once a year to look for fraudulent activities.
- Check your account online and review your financial statements regularly to help catch unauthorized charges. If you think your account was compromised, contact your financial institution immediately.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to report the scam.
Scammers won’t stop trying to steal your personal information. However, by knowing the signs and protecting yourself from phishing schemes and other forms of fraud, you lessen the chance of getting caught in the phishing net.
To learn more ways to protect your identity, check out our Security Center.