The Legal Brief
FBI Warns to be Aware of COVID-19 Phishing Scams
March 27, 2020
By: Jason L. Ott and Derrick L. Maultsby Jr.
Scammers and hackers are exploiting the confusion and distress caused by COVID-19 to attack while people are most vulnerable. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recently issued a public service announcement warning citizens to be vigilant in reviewing their emails due to email-based fraud, malware, and other schemes that are purposefully utilizing the COVID-19 crisis to lure unsuspecting victims to click on malware and other malicious links and materials.
What you can do:
Be suspicious of and treat cautiously any emails that purport to:
- Contain helpful information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- Contain information from hospitals, doctors, or other medical professionals;
- Provide information from local government officials;
- Be selling medical supplies; or
- Provide a pathway to receive a stimulus check from the government.
The news cycle is currently flooded with stories about updates, warnings, and guidance from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and similar agencies and organizations, national, regional, and official statements from political leaders, and descriptions of the federal stimulus plans. Malicious sources purporting to provide help relating to these topics can create a sense of comfort in users to open and interact with these emails, attachments, and links, which is what these bad actors are counting on.
What you can do:
For any link contained in an email, even if it appears to come from your employer or a contact you know, make sure to identify the email address it is coming from - the name may look familiar, but make sure the email address matches the name. If you question the email at all, you should immediately delete it or forward it to your company’s Information Technology Department or other resource for technological security and safety within your organization for them to evaluate. Do not click on the attachment or the links.
Do not respond to queries with sources that you do not know personally and discontinue all communication if you begin to get a bad feeling about the source - for example, if the emailer begins to use poor grammar or asks for personal information. You should never send photographs or other detailed information relating to your bank accounts, you credit cards, your social security number, your address, or other personal information.
If you are the victim of fraud or identity theft do not hesitate to notify law enforcement and notify your credit card companies. These challenging times should not be a boon for bad actors – and these tips should help you stay out of their clutches.