Online criminals and scammers miss no opportunity to take full advantage of the vulnerability of any situation. Today, it is no different during the Coronavirus pandemic. Phishing Scams are on the rise during one of the worst times in our era. The COVID-19 coronavirus has hit the globe. The global pandemic is forcing many out of work because businesses are closing. For the lucky, the opportunity to work remotely, in the safety of their home is increasing. The majority of us are practicing safe social distancing to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and to help flatten the curve of the pandemic. However, a different menace is now on the rise – COVID-19 phishing scams. Scammers are making sure we are not safe online by taking advantage of the coronavirus fears.

While we can practice safe distancing from human contact, how can we protect ourselves online from scammers? By recognizing a phishing scam and other online scams at the onset.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is cybercrime and is basically just like its namesake -- fishing. Bait the hook and reel in the lunker. However, the bait is in the form of malicious links and unsolicited emails. For a phishing scammer, the end goal is to collect private data such as banking account information, credit card details, and login and password details. Generally, cybercriminals use email, text, popup ads, and even telephone calls and pose as legitimate businesses, institutions, state, and government officials to target unsuspecting individuals. Scammer use scare tactics or fearmongering to grab the information they need.

What is a COVID-19 Phishing Scam?

COVID-19 phishing attacks started due to the 2019-2020 coronavirus pandemic. Scammers are using the coronavirus to mimic a health organization or store selling or giving away medical supplies, as webpages acting as government assistance organizations offering relief, COVID-19 charitable organizations offering giveaways, remote workforce phishing, and counterfeiting just to name a few.

How to Protect Yourself from a COVID-19 / Coronavirus Phishing Scam

Just like regular phishing scams, a COVID-19 phishing scam takes place through a variety of mediums that use link exchanges through email, text messages, and other social media messaging apps, document sharing, and emails.

Here are some tips for recognizing coronavirus targeted phishing scams.

Many times, emails, text messages, and malicious websites try to get you to click on a link or enter personal information to either learn more about the product or service, or it promises you a direct action once you have clicked the link.

  • Do not fall prey to phishing attempts of online requests for personal information – login information, social security numbers, or login and passwords. Keep in mind, a legitimate business, CDC, government agency, or financial institution will not ask you for this information.
  • Research any link or email address – Hover your mouse over the URL to determine where it will take you. Cybercriminals and phishers are smart; they know how to create links and logos that mimic legitimate addresses or businesses.
  • Look for generic greetings, spelling or grammar mistakes, or odd use of language. – Many times, phishing emails or ads will be loaded with errors or word usage out of context. If you receive an email with Dear Sir or Madam, it is a good sign that is spam or phishing.
  • Avoid emails or sites that give a sense of urgency, or practically demands you to take immediate action.
  • Ignore and delete offers from emails, or online stores that promise coronavirus vaccinations or testing kits. Phishing scammers are good at their job and will try to convince you to buy products or services that are not yet proven for treatment or prevention. You may throw your money away on useless products or not receive anything at all.
  • Get your facts right – Research information before opening, or resharing. Make sure the information you share is legitimate. Let’s call this information social distancing. If you cannot prove it is a fact, do not reshare it as this helps enable phishing attacks.
  • Do not buy from online sellers that you do not know or cannot verify for cleaning supplies, medical supplies, or medicines. You may be sharing your personal information with a scamming website.
  • If you have not personally contacted a charity, delete any messages or correspondence you get from asking for cash or gift card donations or wire money requests.

Phishing websites and email phishing scams are trying to convince us they can keep us safe during the coronavirus outbreak or protect us from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic with disease control and prevention. While we all want to be safe from this harmful and deadly virus that threatens millions across the globe, we should be mindful of the other types of viruses that are trying to attack us as well: malware, ransomware attacks, identity theft, and even espionage operations.

Phishing Attacks Prevention and Detection

The primary way to protect yourself or your business from phishing scams, including the coronavirus phishing scams that are rearing their ugly heads, is prevention by detection. Be smart and avoid any email, ad, or website that is trying to capitalize on the horrific coronavirus pandemic.

Remember, if it does not seem reasonable or legit, it probably isn’t. Early detection will help you get a jump on swift action before hackers, or a scammer has time to do any harm. When you need to know if a website or URL is malicious, try out our free URL scanner. Just scan a URL to detect phishing, fake or malicious websites instantly.