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Protection from Scams

Criminals use social events, such as the current coronavirus scare, as an opportunity to masquerade as legitimate organizations and take advantage of people.  Awareness will prevent us from falling prey to their tactics.

What are they doing?

Spreading malware
False websites have been created to look like those of trusted sources. These false (spoofed) sites can appear to be for banks, health organizations, governmental organizations and others, and they may look very similar to the actual site.  Whenever possible, use a bookmark you have created or type the web address (URL) into your browser – do not click links.  For example, if you were searching for Mission Bank, you would type “missionbank.com” or “Mission Bank” into your browser.

There is currently a malicious site called Corona Virus Map that claims to provide up-to-date information on the spread of the virus. When people click on the map it embeds spyware called corona.exe, which steals usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information stored on the computer.

If you want current information, type the name of the organization, such as World Health Organization (WHO), or Center for Disease Control directly into your browser, don’t click links found in articles.

Fake charities
Unfortunately, criminals will try to prey on the sympathies and generosity of people by creating donation sites for the catastrophic event at hand. They will lure people into contributing, but all the while they are taking the money and capturing bank account and credit card information for future exploitation.

There are many organizations that are truly helping in times of crisis—just make sure to go directly to their websites to make contributions.

Phishing attempts
Phishing scams are always at work, but when a disaster strikes, the bad guys take full advantage of people’s fear. 

An email may look legitimate and appear to come from a trusted source, like the FDIC, a bank or other reputable business. The criminals use the subject line to trick the receiver into thinking there is something urgent and they need to quickly reply. Typically, the email directs the user to click a link and/or enter personal information, such as username or password to receive important information. Don’t click links. That click may infect the device with malware, as discussed above.

Like phishing emails, fraudulent phone calls asking for donations could be used to take advantage of people during times of uncertainty. Do not contribute or provide any personal information on unsolicited phone calls.  Reach out directly to reputable organizations to donate.

What can we do?

Be aware
Think before clicking on any links, especially if it is an unsolicited email or social media article of questionable origin. There are reliable sources for information – go directly to the source. 

Guard usernames and passwords, and don’t enter personal information online unless you’ve verified the authenticity of the site.

Protect personal information
Each of us can follow simple steps to keep ourselves, our assets, and our personal information safe online.

Here are a few tips all internet users can leverage to practice cyber security throughout the year:

  • Set strong passwords and don’t share them with anyone.

  • Keep your operating system, browser, and other critical software optimized by installing updates.

  • Maintain an open dialogue with your family, friends, and community about internet safety.

  • Limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.

  • Be cautious about what you receive or read online—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.