With the advent of the COVID-19 virus, Americans are slowly learning how to better protect themselves from the potent threat of the virus. We know that the simple actions of washing your hands and wearing face masks can significantly reduce the risk of exposure to the virus and its deadly consequences. But just as importantly, the threat of data thieves, viruses in our emails, and viruses on our computers have now become even more common and potentially much more dangerous. And again, simple but common-sense actions can reduce the risk of those viruses as well.
Be Cautious of Phishing Emails.
We are currently seeing a significant increase in Covid-19 phishing emails. (“Phishing” is when you receive an email from what looks to be a legitimate source or person requesting personal information, but in reality, it is from a hacker seeking your data to steal your information. To protect yourself, always look at the sender’s full email address and verify it is from the correct domain!
For example, I frequently get phishing emails from what looks to be my credit card company, complete with logos, footers, graphics, etc. warning me that there has been potentially a fraudulent charge on my account, and to click on the embedded link to verify or dispute the charge. But, by looking at the sender’s email address, rather than seeing americanexpress.com for example, I might something different or different but just a few letters, like amercanexpess.com.
Never Click on an Unfamiliar Link
If you click on the link in the phishing email, you are sent to the hacker’s website which looks like a legitimate website asking you to confirm your personal information so they can then use it to access your credit card or bank accounts. If you get one of these emails, do not click on the link and check with your credit card company as they will probably request you forward the email to their fraud department and then delete the email off of your computer.
Second, we are seeing numerous internet ads for COVID-19 testing kits as well as potential vaccines! They are simply trying to get your credit information, steal your money, and send you useless, as well as potentially dangerous products. When a real at-home COVID-19 testing product becomes available, as well as a vaccine, you will hear it shouted from the mountain tops by the CDC & FDA! Do not trust unverified sources for these types of “vaccination” products. These will always most likely be Covid-19 phishing emails.
Don’t Be Fooled by Deceitful Government Emails!
Third, if you received a PPP (Payroll Protection Plan) loan, there have been several companies sending out emails claiming that they can get the loans automatically forgiven by the government, but you will need to provide them with all the materials you provided your bank originally to obtain the loan. Again, only the originating bank can have your loan forgiven by the government, not an outside company. But if you send them all the original information you provided your bank, you will be providing the data thieves a treasure trove of information to steal from your company and potentially from you, as well. Only deal with your originating bank!
Finally, if you are working from home, as so many of us are these days, you need to be careful on the internet. First and foremost, make sure you have active and updated VIRUS protection… this is cheap insurance for your various electronic devices, such as your laptop and desktop computer! And if you are sending any type of confidential information, like credit card information or your social security number by email, be sure to use a secure email product like NeoCertified (go to www.neocertified.com) to ensure you protect this information which can be used to steal your money and other personal information. Inexpensive, effective, and easy to use! And if you ever need to make a payment for something on the internet, make sure you use a product like PayPal to ensure your banking and credit card information is protected at all times. If the company you’re buying from does not offer PayPal, make sure that their website is secure by looking for the “HTTPS” on their website payment page and verifying that they are a credible vendor! No one can protect you like yourself, so now, more than ever, you need to be aware and diligent.