Scammers Using Coronavirus Worries As Cover for Fake Messages

Scammers use websites and messages, but they're also still using phone calls.

"Your prayers have been answered! We have approved you for $5,000!"

Scam messages like these come from people trying to take advantage of others through bogus phone calls, emails or text messages. They nearly always include a link – though not to a real offer. They can, however, be dangerous.

"The goal is to get their victim to open that attachment or to click on that link," said Jim Stickley, a cybersecurity expert and CEO of Stickley on Security. "Unfortunately, if [users] do, they’re actually going to be installing malware on their computer."

That malware can potentially track a victim's every click and keystroke, giving hackers access to accounts and passwords.

They also make use of current events that might affect the behavior of potential victims, Stickley said – including the coronavirus. Some are even setting up fake websites claiming to sell items in shortage, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

"The criminals are thriving on this right now because they realize that everyone is paranoid. Everybody's kind of freaking out," he said.

Scammers use websites and messages, but they're also still using phone calls. In a call recorded by RoboKiller, a call blocking app, a scammer pretended to be from the Republican House Committee to lure victims:


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"The coronavirus has just caused the DOW to drop 1,000 this week. Some analysts say this is just the beginning.  Are you prepared for this crash?  Press 1 to be connected."

California is one of the states most impacted by these types of calls, according to RoboKiller, whose app says it can eliminate 99% percent of spam calls.

With or without an app, security experts recommend being on the lookout for calls, text and emails that seem off.

Stickley said, "The best advice I can give right now is if you receive an email or a text message and it comes from somebody you know or somebody you don't know and it's talking about the coronavirus and it says you really need to check this out — and there's some sort of a link or some sort of an attachment and they want you to open that up — just stop. Don’t click on the link, don't open the attachment. There's just too much risk associated with these types of emails and these types of text messages."

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