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Mason City (641)423-1600 Change Location

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Mason City Change Location

2601 4th Street SW
Mason City, IA 50401

Tel. (641)423-1600

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Home Blog Watch out for Coronavirus-Related Scams

Watch out for Coronavirus-Related Scams

Watch out for Coronavirus-Related Scams

As with any public crisis, the spread of the coronavirus has created a new crop of greedy hackers – targeting people who are anxiously awaiting their stimulus check, who are working from home, and who are just trying their best to stay healthy. People of all ages need to be on guard against all kinds of scams and misinformation found online, in your email inbox, in your US Postal mailbox, and even in your text messages. As long as COVID-19 remains in the news and the spread of the pandemic continues, threat actors will find new ways to exploit the situation.

Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links “claiming” to provide information on the virus, donating to a charity online or through social media, contributing to a crowdfunding campaign, purchasing products online, or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits. Also, watch your US postal mailbox for scam letters related to your stimulus check. Yep, they are already showing up in mailboxes.

Here are three coronavirus-related scams to avoid:

  1. Email phishing. Unsolicited emails that prompt you to click on an attachment should always raise a red flag when you’re checking your inbox. With the news that the government is going to issue payments up to $1,200 in coronavirus relief to US taxpayers, the FBI recently issued a warning to be on alert for attacks masquerading as the agency and asking for personal information supposedly in order to receive your check. NEVER automatically download attachments and NEVER reveal personal or financial information in an email, or respond to requests for it.

    It is vital to remember that the US government does not send out emails asking for people’s personal information (social security number, bank account details, or credit card numbers) in order to get federal aid or require you to pay a small “processing fee.”
     
  2. Mobile Malware. If you are looking to track COVID-19 news with an app, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for malware traps. Earlier in March, there was a malicious Android app that claimed to help users chart the spread of the virus. However, it let led to a slew of Android phones being locked and held for ransom by hackers. Meanwhile, hackers were using coronavirus-tracking map sites to inject malware into people’s browsers. It's a good idea to stick to the official app store for your device for any coronavirus-related apps to better your odds of installing benign software.

    If you receive texts claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, DELETE them. Don’t click on any links.

    If you receive a phone call from a number you don’t recognize, the safest course of action is simply to ignore the call. If you answer a call and suspect it’s a robocall, simply hang up. Don’t press any numbers. If you do, it might lead to more robocalls.
     
  3. Charity Check-out. During a disease outbreak or natural disaster, the good angel on our shoulder compels us to open our wallets to the less fortunate through charitable giving and donation. Before we follow that impulse, we need to take an extra few moments to STOP and make sure the charity isn’t a funnel into the bank account of a predatory impersonator. Attackers seem to lack any sort of sympathy and to them, anything and anyone is fair game.

    Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. Taking a few moments to review the source could save you the heartbreak of an emptied spending account. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, DON’T DO IT. It’s a scam.

Random Facebook groups offering supposed home cures for COVID-19, long Twitter threads from self-appointed health experts and cleverly designed websites, etc... There are dozens of ways misinformation can lure unsuspected victims into a position of vulnerability. While it can be hard to sort the solid information from the scam-baiting, here are a couple of ways:

  • By clicking the “about” section of a Facebook group, you can see whether that group has changed its name multiple times to reflect new national crises – a sure sign that the group is trawling for an audience rather than promoting reliable news.
     
  • Keep an eye on official sources on Twitter, including the accounts of trusted news sites and their news reporters.
     
  • If a site claims to be an official government publication, check the URL to see if it ends in .gov.

It’s easy to be duped by criminals when your world has been turned upside down and your judgment may be a bit off because you are stressed, angry, worried, or frustrated. But the last thing you want to do is make a mistake that allows a criminal to rack up a credit card balance in your name or empty your bank account because you weren’t careful. Keep the above tips on your radar, and with any luck, financial scams will be one thing you don’t have to worry about.

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