Heightened Scrutiny Against Phishing Attempts During COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has presented an opportunity for cybercriminals to deploy phishing attacks, preying on the public’s fears and increased frequency of communicating on digital channels. It is important to treat each email, text or call with heightened scrutiny to avoid being a victim of these security threats.

What is a phishing attack?
Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

How does it work?
Cybercriminals send emails or texts disguised to be from legitimate organizations with information about the coronavirus such as health agencies, hospitals, financial services companies or even the IRS.
These emails generally have an attachment or link that will offer helpful information to you, such as the latest COVID-19 statistics. As soon as you interact with the email, by opening the attachment or clicking on a link, there is a chance of inviting malicious software (malware) onto your device.

Malware enables cybercriminals to have direct access to your computer such as logging your keystrokes, recording your screen and retrieving your personal and financial data. The end goal of phishing attacks is generally to gather enough information about your personal data and ultimately commit identity theft.

How do I know if an email is a phishing attempt?

Are you expecting this email? Most likely, if you are not expecting an email from an official agency such as an Unemployment Agency or the Small Business Administration, they will not email you. If you receive an unexpected email, treat it with caution.

Check the sender email address. The biggest tip-off of a malicious phishing attempt is the email address you receive the message from. Does it match the official domain and other emails you have received from this organization?

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A common email scam going around currently offers free vaccine kits or antibodies testing to victims and prompts them to enter credit card and billing information on a fake e-commerce website. Unless an email is coming directly from your medical provider, this is most likely a scam. If in doubt, call the number you have on file, to confirm whether the sender is legitimate.

Never offer your personal information. Delete all emails requesting personal information such as your Social Security Number, or passwords. Scrutinize emails that request this information in an urgent manner.

Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has given scammers an additional platform for cybercrime. It is essential to educate yourself and remain extra-cautious when interacting with digital communications.

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