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Apr 12, 2020

Watch Out for These 3 Coronavirus Scams

We have entered a period of unprecedented anxiety for small business owners, but there is one sector of a type of small business that is booming amid the crisis—scamming. Unfortunately, malicious actors are always trying to take advantage of bad situations, but with some knowledge, you can reduce your risk of becoming their prey.  

1. Cure-Alls and Work-From-Home Robocalls

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noted an uptick in robocalls regarding coronavirus in March. The scammers appear to be offering everything from fake COVID-19 tests to job offers.

No matter the subject of the call, the FTC’s advice is simple: don’t press any numbers and hang up the phone.   

“Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes,” the FTC said in an alert. “The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.”

There have also been reports of texts about checks from the government—the United States government will not use text as the primary way to contact you about this issue.

2. A Phishing Frenzy

Not only are scammers blowing up people’s phones, but they’re also sending out emails. These emails often try to “phish” for your personal information by tricking you into clicking links or downloading software.

“Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes,” the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a release. “Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19.”

Cybersecurity firm Norton noted that scammers are pretending to be legitimate organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Most commonly, they try to get you to download malware that shares your data. Even worse, hackers can get access to your computer systems and hold it for ransom.

3. Sketchy COVID-19 Apps

During March, a series of coronavirus-related apps appeared that did serious damage to your device if downloaded.

Most of these were Android apps, and they often advertised that they utilized real-time data about the crisis. In some cases, victims reported that their phones were locked down and ransomed; in other cases, the apps resulted in stolen data.

“Coronavirus malware can inflict its own form of damage: it can steal a user’s banking credentials and other personal information such as passwords and usernames and generally cause all sorts of hazards, inconvenience, and anxiety,” cybersecurity firm Reason said in a blog post. “The malware might also be used for performing remote attacks and to infect computers with other types of malware.”

The easiest way to avoid being taken advantage of is to only download apps through the Google Play store or via the Apple App Store. As a general rule, it is smart to look up any app before downloading it.

About the author

Barry Eitel
Barry Eitel
Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.

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