Unfortunately, fraudsters are trying to take advantage of the viral headlines.

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency – and unfortunately, fraudsters are trying to take advantage of the viral headlines.

New email phishing scams have been reported in which fraudsters are posing as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), WHO and other well-known health organizations in order to obtain personal information. 

“We commonly see fraudsters try to take advantage of global uncertainty by attempting to get people to click malicious links, enter credentials on fraudulent websites or volunteer their personal information,” explains Nate Tuting, head of the Raymond James Cyber Threat Center. “We’ve seen them impersonate a legitimate email sender by using an email address ending in ‘cdcgov.org’ – something close enough to the legitimate ‘cdc.gov’ that unsuspecting recipients don’t realize it’s fake.” Tuting also warns that the scammer might even include the real organization’s logo somewhere in the email to feign credibility.

The emails may contain links or attachments promising “safety tips” to help prevent sickness or information on “new cases around your city.” Do not click on or open them. These links might send you to a scammer-controlled website designed to steal your log-in information, and attachments might be laden with computer viruses.

A few tips to remember as you work to keep your cyber-health secure:

  • Check the details. Thoroughly check the email sender and domain names, and keep an eye out for spelling and grammar errors – they may be a hint that your correspondent isn’t legitimate. 
  • Look for red flags. Fraudsters may often try to create a sense of urgency, pose as a person of authority or even use uncommon language to try to lower your defenses.
  • Play it safe. Do not click any links, open any attachments, reply, or otherwise provide any information unless you’re absolutely sure who you’re communicating with.
  • Go straight to the source. Not sure if an email is really from the organization it claims? Do an internet search for the entity in question, like Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization, and review information straight from the real website.

And while we’re at it, a few tips for staying healthy overall:

  • Wash your hands. Frequently, and with soap and water. As to how long? “Count to 20,” says Healthcare Policy Analyst Chris Meekins (and the CDC). “That’s usually twice as long as most people do when they’re washing their hands.”
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. This one goes the other way, too – if you’re the one who’s ill, it’s in everyone’s best interests for you to stay home.
  • Clean and disinfect the things you frequently touch. Think your keyboard, mouse and phone, for starters. Another germy surface to target? Door handles. “Don’t actively touch your face after you’ve touched a door knob,” says Meekins.
  • Lean on the professionals. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have, and be sure to immediately report any symptoms of illness.

These steps may seem basic, but they’re effective. By practicing these healthy habits, “you’re less likely to get any type of disease, whether it’s a cold or a flu,” says Meekins, “and those same things apply to this coronavirus.”

All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of Raymond James & Associates, Inc., and are subject to change. Past performance may not be indicative of future results.

Sources: cdc.gov, nbcnews.com