LOS ALAMOS, N.M., March 19, 2020 – No question about it, the past few weeks have been unsettling as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). We’re seeing things unfold that most of us haven’t experienced before. Entire cities have shut down, people are being quarantined, and credit unions are being forced to find different ways to serve members.
While we’ve seen the best in humanity – from Smith’s setting aside special times to serve the elderly, to local restaurants providing delivery and take out options – we’ve also seen scammers who are exploiting people’s Coronavirus fears. Here are some scams you should be aware of:
Android Malware and Ransomware
Android devices in particular have been left vulnerable to malware attacks allowing scammers to spy on you through your smartphone camera, listen to you through the microphone and go through your text messages. The scammers, suspected of operating in Libya, send out text messages with a link promising an app that will allow you to track the Coronavirus. Once you click on the text message, the malware installs itself on your phone.
DomainTools, a Seattle-based security research team, has discovered that Android users are also the target of ransomware that threatens to erase their phone. Much like malware, users are promised an app with a real-time COVID-19 tracker. The app is actually poisoned with ransomware called CovidLock that denies users access to their phone by changing the locked- screen password. It requests $100 in bitcoin within 48 hours or the phone’s contacts, pictures and videos will be erased. It also threatens to publicly leak social media accounts.
Scammers Impersonating Organizations
The FBI, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO) are investigating multiple claims of scammers who are sending out emails impersonating these organizations and spreading incorrect information about COVID-19. The WHO is among the most-impersonated organization in the scam campaigns. Fraudsters pretend to offer important information about the virus in an attempt to get potential victims to click on malicious links. Typically, such links can install malware, steal personal information, or attempt to capture login and password credentials.
Exploiting Charitable Giving
Another common type of scam going around is an attempt to tug on the heart strings and attempt to get the recipient to help fund the vaccine for children in China. Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have served cease-and-desist letters to retailers who are trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic by selling fake or misbranded products claiming to combat the disease directly.
How to protect yourself
Even though there are a lot of ways to get taken advantage of, there are also many ways to protect yourself:
- Don’t click on links from any sources you don’t know. It could download viruses on your computer or device.
- Be aware of emails claiming to be from a government organization. If you receive an email from the WHO or CDC, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, go to the respective website to verify the information.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
- Be wary of giving your personal information. Legitimate organizations will not ask for any of the following:
- Full social security number
- Account or card numbers
- One-time password
- PIN information
- Usernames or passwords
- Payment through Bitcoin, money cards, gift cards, etc.
While it seems that this unfortunate epidemic has come upon us most unexpectedly, there are fraudsters out there quickly taking action and prepared to hustle unsuspecting, innocent people. If you aren’t sure of the legitimacy on a certain request, take extra steps to verify to ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself, your sensitive information, and your money.
The privacy and protection of our entire community are important to us at Zia Credit Union. Feel free to reach out to our local call center at (800) 392-7629 if you receive communication from an entity claiming to be our credit union to verify its legitimacy.
About Zia Credit Union
Zia Credit Union is a member-owned financial cooperative providing financial services to approximately 11,000 members who live, work or worship in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Taos and Santa Fe counties. To find out more visit us at ziacu.org. Zia Credit Union has branches in Los Alamos and Española.