March 23, 2021
How to Stay Secure from COVID-19 Scams
Another round of stimulus checks in response to COVID-19 are being released and vaccines are being administered every day. If you are expecting a stimulus check or making an appointment for the vaccine, there are a few things you should look out for to avoid scams and protect yourself and your finances.
Researchers began seeing COVID-19 and vaccination scams in early March. These phishing scams include methods like texts, robocalls, and emails.
What is Phishing?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines phishing as a scammer's usage of email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. There are many ways to recognize phishing and ultimately avoid it to stay secure.
- Think before you click. Stop and do a quick assessment of any email or information you receive. This includes looking at the "from" field and verifying the identity.
- Look for typos. Make note of small errors in spelling, incorrect grammar, or anything that seems unprofessional to you.
- Hover over links. Hovering your mouse over links reveals where it is truly sending you before actually clicking. If the link seems off to you, don't click.
- Don't open email attachments. If you were not expecting an attachment, verify that the sender intended to send it to you.
- Listen to your gut. If something seems like phishing, it most likely is and you should delete or report it immediately.
How to Avoid COVID-19 Stimulus Check Scams
One of the ways scammers are attempting to breach your finances is by impersonating the IRS in stimulus check information.
The scammer uses a fake email address and includes typos by replacing the "i" in IRS with a lowercase "L." The emails they send include enticing offers to inflate the stimulus check value to $4,000, which is not a viable option.
These emails include can include attachments or forms to file for financial assistance. The scammer may request the receiver to "enable content," which, if clicked, begins the process of putting malware onto the machine.
This malware attempts to target sensitive personal banking information. Money can then be stolen through unauthorized transfers.
If you receive an email regarding COVID-19 stimulus checks, remember to check for the phishing tips we covered above.
How to Avoid COVID-19 Vaccine Scams
Another common, COVID-19 scam revolves around the vaccine. Scammers send out texts, robocalls, and emails offering fake opportunities surrounding the vaccine. Some of these include:
- Offers for early access or pre-registration if you pay a fee or put down a deposit. You cannot pay to get early access and you will not be asked for money to pre-register.
- Advertisements that "sell" the vaccine. You cannot buy it yourself.
- Unsolicited emails, texts, or calls that talk about the vaccine, making an appointment, or requirements for the vaccine. You should not be asked for your Social Security Number or bank account information over the phone.
For any vaccine information, visit your local or state health department to find out what the process is. Going through these established organizations is the best way to get on a vaccine list.
If you suspect phishing, delete it or report it. The most important thing you can do is train your household to spot phishing and to always practice good cyber-hygiene. For more information regarding phishing, visit the Security Center.