Skip to main content

How To Disable Those Annoying Facebook Voting Reminders

How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Scams



2020 has been quite a whirlwind for all of us. A global pandemic? Nationwide quarantines happening all over the world? This all seems like something out of a movie. But the truth is that all of this is a part of our new reality. This is a new reality that we all share and have to navigate the best way that we can.

Though all of this has brought out the best in many people it has unfortunately also brought out the opportunism in some. Both the WHO and Secret Service has issued these warnings:

There are investigations into hoarding or price-gouging nationwide, and many more fraud investigations underway. The scammers are coming out of the woodwork. What are they after?
  • Your money.
  • Your information.
What do these scams look like? There are many ways a scammer might reach out to you but here is one example. You get a phone call. The number looks legit. When you answer they claim to be from a hospital and tell you that someone that you care about is infected and hospitalized. They ask you to give your credit card information to pay the hospital bill. Sad to say calls like this are on the rise. Guess what? If you hand over your money you are just padding the pockets of a con artist.

The number of COVID-19 related scams are growing daily. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans have been conned out of almost $13 million. 32% of Americans believe they've already been targeted by scammers.

Many scammers will try to convince you of some amazing treatment or cure. There are no approved vaccines, cure, or drugs to treat the virus. What these con artists are counting on is that you are afraid or desperate and willing to part with your information and money to buy the goods they are selling. The sad truth is that the scams aren't going away for a long time. There has been a definite increase in phone calls and emails from unknown numbers and sources. Even the Web isn't immune. If a website has COVID or Coronavirus in it's URL it is 50 percent more likely to be malicious.


Part of the problem is that there isn't very much information out there about how to treat COVID-19. The government gives mixed messages at times. Important medical supplies are lacking. Many people no longer trust health authorities. People want solutions and solutions are lacking. All of this adds up to an ideal environment for scammers to thrive.

Taking all of this into account we are left with one very important question: What can we do about it? I am going to share some things that you can do to protect yourself.

The ways to protect yourself that I am about to share are applicable to all of your communications and online activities, not just ones concerning COVID-19.

Types of COVID-19 Scams and Threats

There are a lot of things to watch out for here.

  • Phishing and Vishing Scams
  • Social Engineering
  • Malicious Apps
  • Fake COVID-19 Tracking Maps
  • Malicious Websites
  • Fake Charities
  • Fake News
Let's take a look at each of them and some ways to protect ourselves.

Phishing and Vishing Scams

Phishing and vishing are all too prevalent these days. Here is what they are and how to protect yourself.

What is phishing and vishing?

Phishing is when someone contacts you through email, text, or message and pretends to be a different person, company, or organization. Their goal? To trick you into giving them your username, password, or other personal information. Some phishers have become pretty sophisticated and their email, text, or messages can look just like the real thing. That is why it is a good idea that when you check your email to open a separate tab to go to an account rather than by clicking a link in an email. Vishing is like phishing except it is done over voice such as a call.

How to protect yourself?

  • If something seems sketchy about a communication or if it seems too good to be true either just ignore it, delete it, or at least check it out to make sure it is legit before responding.
  • Watch for weird phrasing, typos, and bad spelling. They are a dead giveaway.
  • Watch for threats and urgent deadlines. These are a big red flag. Don't fall for scare tactics.
  • Another red flag is if the email has a generic greeting such as "dear sir" or "dear madame" rather than using your actual name.
  • Do not click links in emails to open important accounts. It is safer to type or paste the URL in a new tab.
  • Be careful about downloading attachments. If they are from someone you don't know don't download them. If they appear to be coming from someone that you know check with the sender first to make sure the attachment is really from them. Either way make sure you have updated antivirus active to protect you.
  • Check short links to make sure they are legit. Check out Unshorten.It.
  • If you are asked for personal information via email, text, or call be very wary about giving it out. Always make sure that they really are who they claim to be.
  • Use security software to protect your computer. I would recommend a good antivirus and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to run periodic scans.
  • Whether you are using a PC, tablet, or smartphone make sure to keep your operating system up to date. This way if your OS maker has found any security holes they can be patched.
  • Don't submit personal information via forms embedded in email. The information you enter might be tracked.
  • Enable two-factor authentication wherever you can. That way if someone does get your password they will still have to provide a generated security code to get into your account.
  • Browse the Web with HTTPS. Check out HTTPS Everywhere
  • Hang up on robocalls.
What this basically boils down to is be careful. Guard your personal information. Use common sense. Think before you click or reply. If things don't seem right don't give your information.

Social Engineering

This is a threat that has always been with us. Here is how to avoid becoming a victim.

What is social engineering?

Social engineering is essentially conning others out of their information.

How to protect yourself?

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited emails, messages, or calls seeking personal information.
  • Don't give personal information over email, messenger, or phone.
  • Verify requests for personal information by contacting the company directly.
  • Avoid revealing personal details of your life to strangers. This includes what you share on social media. The more information you give the more information the bad guys have to use against you.
  • Keep in mind that just because someone claims to be a certain person or to represent a certain business or organization doesn't mean that they are telling you the truth. Be cautious.
Again, be careful and use common sense. Don't make yourself an easy mark.

Malicious Apps

Malicious apps present as big a danger to your security as hackers, phishers, and fake websites. Here is what you can do about it.

What are malicious apps?

A malicious app is an app that will try to infect your device and/or steal your information. It may infect you with a virus or other malware, log your keystrokes, take over your device, trick you into entering your personal information, steal your passwords, or even use your camera or microphone to spy on you.

How to protect yourself?

  • Make sure that you re running security software. As I said before, I would recommend a good antivirus and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to run periodic scans.
  • Do not download email attachments. It is a good idea to check with the source to make sure that they meant to send the attachment to you.
  • When it comes to downloading any type of software try to stick to the official app stores or websites that you know and trust.
  • When installing an app check its permissions. For example, a flashlight app doesn't need access to your contacts and most games shouldn't need access to your camera.
  • To patch up security holes keep your operating system updated. This applies to both your smartphone and PC.
  • Before downloading an app check out the reviews. Look for any red flags in what the reviewers say.
  • Think and look closely before installing any new app.
The best tools at your disposal to protect yourself from malicious apps are an updated operating system, good security software, paying attention, and common sense.

Fake  COVID-19 Tracking Maps

They promise to allow you to track the virus. What they actually do is inject malware into your browser. What kind of malware? It could be any number of things. Anything from logging your information to hitting you with ads. The end goals are still your data and money. The map might look legit but the intention is not.

How to protect yourself?

The only way to protect yourself is to only use legitimate tracking maps. Check out this one. Also check out this article for great places to stay up to date on the pandemic.

Malicious Websites

Fake tracking maps are an example of one of these. A malicious website might also try to con you by offering masks, treatments, and other things that they have no intention to deliver. It may also be set up to infect your device or steal your information.

How to protect yourself?

  • Go through your browser settings to make them more secure.
  • Use two-factor verification wherever you can.
  • Use updated security software.
  • Be careful what you click on. Don't necessarily trust every link on the Web. Check out VirusTotal. You can use it to check if a link that you aren't sure about is safe before clicking on it.
Like always, be careful online. Be cautious about what you click on. One good rule of thumb is when in doubt don't click.

Fake Charities

It is sad to say that some people are more than happy to use your best nature against you. The current crises causes many of us to want to help others. An unscrupulous thief will attempt to take advantage of that good will. Some have even started knocking on doors to con people face to face. Don't fall for it.

How to protect yourself?

  • Donate to known charities that have a good reputation.
  • Check the reputation of a charity before you donate. Go to Charity Watch and run a search on a suspicious charity. This site can sometimes help you determine if a charity is worth your hard earned money.
  • Don't give out credit card numbers over the phone, by email, or to a stranger knocking on you door.
Thieves have also knocked on doors claiming to be from the government or a hospital or clinic. They say they have tests for the virus. They might even claim to be doing a health check. Shut your door. Do not allow them to enter your home. There is a chance that they are there to either con you or to case your place out.

Fake News

I know that "fake news" is a very political term these days. Unfortunately it does exist and is thriving.

How to protect yourself?

  • Don't believe everything you read. Just because someone you know shared it doesn't make it true. Reading it on a blog or watching it on YouTube doesn't make it real.
  • Fact check before you believe it. Google can be your friend here. Google it to see for yourself if it is true. Use these sites to fact check claims that you read on the Internet:


Fake news isn't just misleading, it can be dangerous. It can lead people into risky behavior, ruin reputations, and even cost lives.

Takeaways:

  • Trust your gut and if something seems off don't blindly trust it.
  • If someone tries to pressure you into giving your information move on. They are trying to scam you.
  • Another red flag is if an email has a generic greeting such as "dear sir" or "dear madame" rather than using your actual name.
  • Do not click links in emails to open webpages.
  • Be careful about downloading attachments.
  • Check short links to make sure they are legit.
  • If you are asked for personal information be very wary about giving it out.
  • Use security software to protect your computer.
  • Keep your operating systems up to date.
  • Don't submit personal information via forms embedded in email.
  • Enable two-factor authentication wherever you can.
  • Browse the Web with HTTPS.
  • Hang up om robocalls.
  • Don't give personal information over email, messenger, or phone.
  • Verify requests for personal information by contacting the company directly.
  • Avoid revealing personal details of your life to strangers.
  • When it comes to downloading any type of software try to stick to the official app stores or websites that you know and trust.
  • Check app permissions and reviews before installing.
  • Only use legitimate COVID-19 tracking maps.
  • Make sure to set your browser settings to secure.
  • Be careful what you click on.
  • Check the reputation of a charity before you donate.
  • Don't give out credit card numbers over the phone, by email, or to a stranger knocking on you door.
  • Don't allow a stranger into your home just because they claim to be official.
  • Fact check claims you read on the Internet.
The Justice Department is focusing on trying to stop COVID-19 scams. The FTC and FDA have issued warnings to people selling of unapproved treatments and cures. The government is doing what they can but there is only so much that they can do. If you believe you are a victim take note of whatever information the scammer gave you, including names, websites, phone numbers, and report it to the FTC and your local police.

There are selfish people out there hoping to turn a profit. It is our responsibility to protect ourselves.

Check out these sites to stay informed about the threats out there:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to Make Your Facebook Account More Private and Secure Part One: Settings - Tech Marks The Spot

How secure and private is your Facebook account? The Internet is full of cool and interesting people. Unfortunately, it also has many bullies, scammers, predators, hackers, and even a few people that you might not want to see that post that you made about your boss or that picture from last years New Years Eve party. The process of increasing your security and privacy on Facebook is painless. This is part one of the two part series: How to Make Your Facebook Account More Private and Secure. Here, in part one, we are going to deal with your settings.
Basics: Privacy CheckupWhat is Privacy Checkup? In Facebook's own words:
"Take a few minutes to review how you're currently sharing your information with people on Facebook and with the apps and websites from other companies that you've used Facebook to log into."In the following steps you will make your first moves toward reclaiming some of your privacy. Log in to your Facebook account. Head over to Facebook and log …

How to Send and Receive Email From Different Accounts Using Gmail - Tech Marks The Spot

Do you have more than one email address? Do you have a Gmail account? It can be a pain to have to log in to multiple email accounts just to keep up with the communications that are important to you. There is a solution to make checking your various email accounts a lot more convenient. You can check them all from within Gmail. In this post I am going to tell you a little more about Gmail, how to send and receive email from different accounts from within Gmail, and how to set up a professional looking email address with your own domain name at a low cost.

Introduction to Gmail Before getting into how to use Gmail to send and receive email from other accounts let's take a closer look at Gmail itself. Here is more information about it's history, popularity, and features.

History of Gmail According to Wikipedia:

The public history of Gmail dates back to 2004. Gmail, a free, advertising-supported webmail service with support for Email clients, is a product from Google. Over its hi…