CALIFORNIA—On Saturday, March 21, the FBI announced that there has been a ‘significant spike’ in COVID-19 scams. The public is being warned to be aware of scammers during the coronavirus outbreak, where scammers are sending phishing emails to take personal and financial information.

In one of the phishing scams, fraudsters are posing as health officials from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These scammers send phishing emails that load malware onto devices and take personal information like  usernames and passwords.

• Verify the validity of companies, charities or individuals sending direct information about the coronavirus. Inspect all URLs carefully to see if they are from legitimate websites.
• Be suspicious of anyone emailing offers for supplies or treatments for coronavirus or who request  personal information. Look out for typos and grammatical errors.
• Keep anti-malware and anti-virus software updated on a computer.
• Report suspected fraudulent activity to law enforcement.

Suspicious emails might ask individuals to open an attachment to see the latest Coronavirus-related statistics. By opening the link or attachment it can download malicious software onto your device.

Some suspicious emails claim to offer health advice from medical experts near Wuhan, China where the virus originated. Other scammers target workplace emails with introductions like, “All, Due to the coronavirus outbreak, [company name] is actively taking safety precautions by instituting a Communicable Disease Management Policy.”

Malicious software allows cyber criminals to take control over a computer accessing personal information and financial data. Once criminals have access to personal information where an individual can  become a victim of identity theft.

Written by Anita Brown and Christianne McCormick