The novel coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19, are now global phenomenons. The World Health Organization is stopping just short of calling it a pandemic, but the virus is present on almost every continent around the globe. Fear is palpable and people across the internet are scrambling for answers.
Of course, now is not the time to panic. Panic will only lead to deeper problems in affected countries — such as food hoarding and medical supply shortages. Throw fearmongering and fake news into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. Tap or click to see some of the wildest fake coronavirus stories.
To make matters worse, scammers and con artists are finding their times to shine amid the epidemic. When uncertainty rules the atmosphere, these scummy grifters make it their mission to rip people off. To stay safe, you’ll need to know which scams to watch out for.
1. Email scams and phishing schemes
Email scams are one of the most basic weapons in a scammer’s arsenal. They’re easy ways to spread malicious links to phishing sites and malware, and they serve as the perfect vehicles for malicious attachments that can harm your computer.
Thanks to the spread of the coronavirus, email scams are masquerading as disease control authorities. Fake bulletins pretending to be from the CDC and other relevant agencies are common, as are deceptive pages that look like the real organization websites.
According to reports from Business Insider, a common CDC phishing scam spreading right now includes links to “updated case lists” that actually direct you to malicious sites where you will be asked for your email login.
These often employ realistic-sounding language and convey a sense of urgency. Most of the time, the people running these scams aren’t even Americans. Tap or click to see what Russian scammers think of the coronavirus.
If you get an email pretending to be from one of these organizations, avoid clicking any links or attachments. To check the legitimacy of these emails, always check the senders’ email addresses to see if they match up to a .gov domain. If they don’t, they’re likely fakes.
You can always right-click and copy the links in these emails then paste them into a Word document to see if they look trustworthy. If they’re just long jumbles of characters or don’t redirect to a .gov site, you can promptly ignore them.
2. Forget coronavirus, here’s a computer virus
Earlier this year, Japanese netizens discovered an email scam containing a PDF file with lists of “updated local infections.” As it turned out, these attachments were nothing more than trojan malware that harvested personal data.
Once your system is infected, the trojan lingers and continues to pose a risk of further malicious activity. As mentioned above, make sure not to open any attachments from unknown senders under any circumstances. Tap or click for more information about this trojan.
If you want an accurate, complete list of cases around the world, tap or click here to see the digital map from Johns Hopkins University.
3. Digital snake oil
When disaster strikes, people will often fall victim to bogus products that prey on their fears and anxieties. And leave it to the modern snake-oil salesmen of the world to take advantage of a global health crisis.
A number of phony health products ranging from essential oils to healing crystals were an epidemic on platforms like Facebook. Fortunately, the company banned further sales of products that claimed to treat or cure the virus. Tap or click to see what prompted its decision.
But aside from Facebook, other platforms like Craigslist and Etsy are still hotbeds for phony viral cures. If you’re thinking about picking up a hand-crocheted sick mask or a hazmat suit for babies, keep in mind that COVID-19 has no known cure and a vaccine is likely still months away.
Many of these platforms aren’t going to self-moderate, so it’s up to you to use your best judgment. Tap or click here to see the coronavirus gear scams circulating around online marketplaces.
4. Price-gouging and other rip-offs
Con artists are keenly aware of what fear will push people to do. As a result, they stockpiled sick masks and hoarded hand sanitizer from retail stores, then turned around and sold them online for absurd prices.
This tactic, called “price-gouging” is highly amoral. Not only do most people not need sick masks for daily activities, but the people hoarding them are taking valuable stock away from the healthcare workers who actually need them.
Thankfully, most of the big-name marketplaces are taking a stand against price gouging. Tap or click to see what Amazon and Walmart are doing about it.
And when it comes to hand sanitizer, there isn’t much point in paying out the nose for it. Scientists have determined that plain old soap is highly effective at melting the fatty outer coating of the virus. Hand sanitizer is still valuable, but it’s a better idea to make sure health care professionals have access.
In short, don’t pay extra for stuff you don’t need; otherwise, you’ll only have yourself to blame when you need that extra money to cover your sick days.
Speaking of which — if you feel sick, don’t come to work! Self-isolation is one of our greatest tools in combating this threat. By staying hygienic and informed, we have a much better shot of keeping this virus contained. Plus, you won’t be exposing others to illness. Tap or click here to see how to prepare your business for the coronavirus.