As we continue to stay in our homes and try to stay safe, scammers remain an ever-present threat in the online world, taking unwanted advantage of the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has turned into a golden opportunity for them, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars across the globe.
From selling fake vaccines to offering fake job opportunities to creating fake websites for government-approved funds, scammers are developing new schemes to steal money or the identity of unsuspecting users. As if these are not enough, they are now leveraging ‘Contact Tracing’ as bait to dupe people.
What is contact tracing?
Contact Tracing is the process to identify people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. These identified people are later instructed to quarantine themselves and monitor their symptoms daily.
How scammers are using it for malicious purposes
- As scammers usually do their homework and are aware of the latest developments in the pandemic, they are now posing as contact tracers to target their victims.
- The scammers are sending phony text messages asking recipients to click on a scammy link and share their personal details as they have come in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
Falling prey to such scams
- The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) warned users in the UK about a phishing scam themed around a contact tracing app. The attempt was to fool people into believing that they had been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
- New Jersey officials revealed that thousands of scams were reported involving phony coronavirus contact tracers seeking information from residents.
- The Ohio police officers issued a warning about a contact tracing scam in Cuyahoga county. Scammers contacted residents and asked them to share their social security number and bank account information in an attempt to trace COVID-19 contacts.
How to stay safe?
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued guidelines for protection against COVID-19 contact tracing text message scams.
- Messages from local health departments will not include links, and will instead give you heads up for a call in prior - from a number mentioned in the message.
- When a real tracer calls you, they won’t ask for any financial or identity information like social security number.
- In addition to these, users should also watch out for red flags like poor English usage, links in text messages, and requests for personal data.