Unfortunately, with any national or global crisis, the individuals and organizations that take advantage of individuals and businesses don’t take a vacation… they become emboldened and target those who are otherwise distracted and perhaps more willing or vulnerable.
This COVID-19 pandemic is no different; the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has received more than 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams, many of which operate from websites advertising fake vaccines or cures, fraudulent charity drives, or simply attempt to deliver malware or viruses to your computer.
From our friends at the US Department of Justice, here are 9 ways you and your staff can keep your business safe:
- Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.
- Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
- Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the public this way.
- Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
- Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date. Keep your operating system up to date as well.
- Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Remember, if a vaccine becomes available, you will not hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.
- Check online reviews of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.
- Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations in connection with COVID-19 before giving any donation. Remember, an organization may not be legitimate even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name or has reputable looking seals or logos on its materials. For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
- Be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Do not send money through any of these channels.
If you think you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If it is a cyber scam, submit your complaint through https://www.ic3.gov.