How to protect yourself from phishing scams related to COVID-19

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning consumers to be wary of phishing scams related to COVID-19.

With the vaccine rollout well underway, scammers have taken the opportunity to contact people claiming to have vaccine information or even miracle cures in an attempt to obtain sensitive information from them.

Others go a different route, pretending to be contact tracers.

For many people, this is the first pandemic they have experienced. Scammers and thieves have taken this uncharted territory as a way to trick people trying to be cautious into giving them financial or personal information.

Do not let yourself be fooled by these ill-intentioned people. Know how to spot a scam when it arises so you can get out of harm’s way.

Make a vaccination plan and stick to it

For many, obtaining a vaccine appointment has been no small task.

That does not mean you should jump on whatever opportunity comes your way. If someone reaches out to you about an available appointment, it’s possible that person is a scammer.

To best protect yourself against these attempts, do preliminary research to find immunization sites in your area. Keep up to date on when you will be eligible for a vaccine, and plan to schedule one for yourself after that time.

Once it’s your turn, continuously check vaccination site webpages to try and get an appointment. If you put your name on a waiting list, they may reach out to you when there is a vaccine available, but that is virtually the only scenario where someone legitimate will contact you to schedule an appointment.

To protect your safety, research vaccination sites near you and search for appointments at those locations only.

Ignore calls and emails from unknown sources

These sources might be scammers. If they ask for donations or offer you a miracle cure, they almost definitely are.

You might even be contacted by someone pretending to be associated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) or another source you’ve heard of. The FTC is recommending consumers ignore those calls or emails altogether and instead check coronavirus.gov or USA.gov for the latest information. It’s unlikely that those organizations will reach out to you directly unless you contact them first.

Zocdoc is a great source for local immunization sites, and you can get on their waiting list for available appointments near you. Stick to the well-known sources and don’t go digging for others.

Know what a contact tracer will ask you

Contact tracers work for state health departments. It’s their job to keep tabs on where the virus is spreading, and the way to do that is to contact people who have been exposed to the coronavirus and find out where they have gone lately and who they’ve come into contact with.

Some scammers have tried to get personal information out of people by pretending to be a contact tracer. The FTC is advising consumers to know the difference between a contact tracer and a scammer to best protect themselves.

Contact tracers are not going to ask you very much. They will ask you if you have symptoms of the coronavirus, or they will ask if you’ve tested positive. They’ll also ask who you’ve come into contact with over the last few days, and they’ll want to know the places you’ve visited. That’s all they need to know.

If a contact tracer asks you for your social security number, immigration status or any financial information, that person is not really a contact tracer. They are trying to get sensitive information or money out of you. Don’t give it to them.

For more information on how to stay safe online, contact us at Total Defense today.