The Coronavirus is here… and so are the thieves!

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We all are becoming more aware and more frightened of the ramifications the coronavirus has brought onto us all each day, and thieves and scammers are working overtime to prey on us. We are all now, more than ever, more vulnerable to our fears, and as we become more anxious to help ourselves, families, neighbors, and world we are more at risk to the dishonest.

So, what should you do to protect yourself? Always be aware! Know that thieves and hackers are out there looking for opportunities to steal your money, your data, and your company’s information. Currently, there are several methods in which thieves and hackers are attempting to steal from you, such as…

1. Bogus Charities & GoFundMe Sites.

They are flourishing like bunnies in the springtime! Everyone wants to help and typically the only thing we can do is give money. Thieves know this and in response, create very compelling charities and bogus GoFundMe sites to collect funds which in return only goes to them. Doing this, not only hurts the person wanting to donate but it deprives a needy soul that could have benefited from the donation. If you want to give money, research the organization to ensure it is a valid charity. Check out these links if you are interested in donating to a charity.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-to-tell-if-a-charity-_b_9806518

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity

2. The Selling of Coronavirus Test Kits & Medications Online.

There are hundreds of these offerings already on the internet ready to exploit your greatest fears, and steal your money for useless and potentially very harmful products. The kicker is… what if you used one of these “at home” coronavirus tests and the results were negative but in fact, you did have the virus… you could go out and potentially infect hundreds of people, including your family. Taking an illegitimate test could also leave you with significant side-effects, including kidney or liver damage. Do not buy anything online that purports to be an “at-home” test or is a medication to reduce or eliminate the Coronavirus.  They do not exist yet and when they do become legitimate tools in our fight, you will know… Click Here to learn more!

3. Civilians Dressed in Lab Coats Coming to Your Home to Conduct Tests.

This is becoming rather popular in Florida, there has been several reports of civilians dressing up as doctors to distribute at-home Coronavirus testing, but are instead burglarizing the homes once inside. To stop this from happening to you, it is important to not answer the door for strangers or any person dressed as a doctor. Make sure to always have your doors locked and to call the police if you see any suspicious behavior in your neighborhood. Your state health department will make it publicly known via your media outlet if doctors will be giving at-home tests.

4. Phone Calls, Emails, or Texts from Medical Professionals Requesting Money for Treatment of Loved Ones

This too is becoming more popular as it is an easy way for thieves to scam you, especially if anyone close to you is traveling or not currently in the country. So, what do you do? Attempt to contact the person in need of help and verify their situation. Do not assume that the person you are talking to is the person you think them to be. Be sure to verify their identity by asking questions only that person would be able to answer. Try and contact anyone else in the family to see if they know about the person in need or better yet, contact the FBI immediately. If it is a doctor, call them directly to verify what is needed.  Do not call any phone number provided in an email or text.  Find the correct number using known phone numbers or researching them.

5. Phishing Emails, The Old Standard

They are coming fast & furious… links to fictional companies and government websites to collect your information. You have seen them before; you have heard about them a thousand times, but they still keep coming because people keep clicking on them.  So, what do you do? If the email is actually something important to you, verify that it is valid by first checking the email address of the sender. For example, I get many emails from American Express but most are fraudulent and I can easily verify as the sender does not have a legitimate American Express email address. Second, you can call the company or government agency to verify that it is a legitimate email. Again, do not call the phone number in the email!  Either call a known number, like the one on the back of the credit card or look up the agency’s number online.

6. Phone Calls from Government Agencies Like Social Security, IRS or FBI

Yup, this one is getting really popular. In the last several months I have received multiple threatening phone calls that I am about to lose my Social Security Benefits (which I do not yet collect) and to stay on the line until an operator can talk with me. The IRS is going to forcibly have me removed from my house for back-taxes and the FBI or local sheriff was going to come arrest me if I didn’t pay my taxes over the phone with VISA cash cards…really? So, what do you do? Hang up! If there is a legitimate reason for any of these agencies to contact you, they will send you a letter.  If there is a question in your mind about the call, call the agency directly and find out if there is a problem. Again, do not call the phone number that might be given to you on the call. Use a known phone number or look up the agency in question.

7. Only Use Secure Email to Send Personal or Financial Data

Sending that type of information via regular email is like writing it on the back of a postcard… anyone can read it. Simply lookup “secure email” and you will find several really good and trusted products, such as NeoCertified.com, which is easy to use and inexpensive but protects your emails and attachments with the highest-level encryption allowed by the government.  Regardless of what product you use, pick something and use it regularly so you can send encrypted emails to your doctor, accountant, lawyer, or anyone else that you need to share privileged information with.

By practicing these basic precautions, you can help minimize the chance that you will be victimized and ensure that your generosity will benefit those truly in need. By protecting yourself, you are protecting all of us… thank you for that!

Written by
Peter J. Schaub, CEO