April 13, 2020, Kathmandu
U.S. citizens – the taxpayers and those who are working from home – are awaiting their stimulus check. Amid this wait and the pandemic, there is a new scam targeting such people.
What exactly are Stimulus checks or payments?
A stimulus check is a check sent to a taxpayer by the U.S. government. These are intended to stimulate the economy by providing consumers with some spending money.
Now, U.S. citizens need to be on guard against all kinds of scams in their email inbox and even in text messages due to this.
FBI’s Internet Crime Complain Center offers some helpful advice for what exactly to watch out for.
“Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them,” the FBI said. “Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting 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 to receive money or other benefits.”
Statistics from Next Caller suggest that 32% out of 1000 Americans believe that threat actors have already targeted them by scams related to COVID-19. Moreover, 44% have noticed an increase in phone calls and texts from unknown numbers and emails from unknown sources.
What Coronavirus-related Scams To Avoid?
Firstly, there’s always something ‘phishy‘ about an offer claiming to give out vaccines for the virus. Also, you need to watch out for the texts/emails from unknown sources. These scams are intended to lure you into downloading malicious items that compromise your private data.
With the news of government planning to issue payments of up to $1,200 in coronavirus relief to U.S. taxpayers, the FBI issued a warning to be on alert for attackers seeking to lure people into giving up personal information to receive their check.
“While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information to send you money,” the warning said.
A step to avoid this could be disabling automatic attachment download on the email client’s option. Many email clients may not provide this, but some do. After all, you can fall victim to such scams unknowingly.
Similarly, you may want to keep an eye out for malware traps. Earlier in March, Android users had a high risk of exposure to malware from mobile apps. Researchers at Check Point discovered 16 malicious apps that could steal users’ sensitive data or generate fraudulent revenues.
Also, research suggests the registration of more than 30,103 new coronavirus-related sites. Out of these, 131 were considered malicious, and 2,777 were under investigation as “suspicious.”
Wait till you hear about charity checkout!
A global pandemic that we all are facing is the right time for charity work. However, we need to take an extra few minutes to make sure the charity doesn’t go where we had not intended.
Impersonators may be lurking for this opportunity, and you can never be sure. But, what you can do is make sure to verify the charity before donating. You can improve the odds of this by searching sites like guidestar.org and give.org.
You can fall victim to scams through random Facebook groups offering supposed home cures for COVID-19. Long twitter threads and cleverly designed websites can also fool you. This just means that there are a lot of ways threat actors will try to lure you into the misinformation.
It can be hard to sort out the good information from scams, but you can try a couple of ways:
- Go to the “about” section of a Facebook group to check if it has changed its name multiple times. It can be a sure sign of luring an audience than promoting reliable news.
- Keep an eye on official sources on social media giant Twitter and try to avoid less likely news from unknown and unverified sources.
- Check the URL and domain name to verify if a site claims to be an official government publication. Government sites end in .gov.
For more tips on how to avoid tech mistakes to keep yourself safe, check out How to Work from Home Responsibly.