Coronavirus Phishing Emails on the Rise

Coronavirus
WASH YOUR HANDS

A global health disaster like coronavirus is a golden opportunity for criminals looking to steal your personal information or money through Coronavirus Phishing Emails.

Portions of this article were reprinted from the website of consumer advocate, Herb Weisbaum, also known as Consumerman. His website is here: https://consumerman.com/

If you got an email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization about the Coronavirus outbreak, would you read it? Maybe click on a link? Cybercriminals are counting on it!

The outbreak is a dream come true for criminals who will use it as basis for email attacks designed to snag personal information, steal money and infect computers with malware.

Coronavirus phishing emails are on the rise. Malicious emails linked to the Coronavirus first appeared in early February, making it one of the first big phishing campaigns of the year.

“A global health disaster like this one, creates a golden opportunity for fraudsters, as there is no population or demographic that is not paying attention. As a result, the potential for impulse clicking is higher than normal,” said Adam Levin, a digital security expert who is chairman of CyberScout, a data security firm, and the author of “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves.”

The bogus emails look legit

Coronavirus Phishing Emails may look legit, but they’re not! Those who click on the provided link in the email will wind up on a site created by criminals to steal the victims’ email credentials.

With the current Coronavirus phishing emails, fraudsters are designing their emails to look like they’re coming from the CDC or the WHO. They typically have an attention-grabbing subject line, such as “Coronavirus outbreak in your city (Emergency)” and often include the agency’s logo — cut and pasted from the real website — to add credibility.

At first glance, the sender’s email address appears to be legitimate, for example cdc-gov.org or cdcgov.org. The crooks create domains that are very close to the real CDC site — cdc.gov — making the deception easy to miss.

Even though the link looks like it will take you to the CDC.gov website about the Coronavirus, it will not.

You will instead, land on a fake Microsoft Outlook login page, created by the crooks to steal user names and passwords. Criminals control this fake Outlook page. There is no reason to provide login credentials to visit a public website, such as the CDC.

“Once they capture your login credentials, they can use them to get access to your email account and look for anything worth stealing.

BUT IT GETS WORSE

The bad guys have taken things to the next level, using the Coronavirus to infect computers with Malware!

Emails impersonating the CDC include attachments to click on that proclaim the need for the reader to open it to get advice on how to protect yourself. If you open this attachment, it will download Malware or Ransomware onto your computer.

Ransomware locks out all of your computer files and demands a ransom payment to unlock your files. I have written more extensively about Ransomware in a prior article that you can read here.

Just remember that health agencies are NOT sending out mass emails about Coronavirus. There are plenty of legitimate news websites and the CDC website, CDC.gov  itself with important updates and everything you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak.

How to protect yourself from coronavirus scams

You need to be skeptical of any email that asks you to click on a link or open an attachment — even when the email seems legitimate.

In most cases, you can probably get the information you need by typing in the URL yourself. For the latest on the Coronavirus outbreak go directly to the CDC website.

TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF:

  • Don’t be taken in by the sender’s name.Scammers can put any name they like in the “from” field.
  • Look out for spelling and grammatical errors.Not all crooks make mistakes, but many do. Take extra time to review messages for telltale signs that they’re fraudulent.
  • Check the URL before you type it in or click a link.If the website you land on doesn’t look right, steer clear. Do your own research and make your own choice about where to look.
  • Never enter data that a website shouldn’t be asking for. A site that’s open to the public, such as the CDC or WHO, will never ask for your login credentials.
  • If you realize you just revealed your password to impostors, change it as soon as possible.The crooks try to use stolen passwords immediately, so the sooner you change your password, the more likely you are to stop them for doing anything malicious.
  • Never use the same password on more than one site.Once crooks have a password, they’ll try it on every website where you might have an account, to see if they can get lucky.
  • Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA), if you can. Yes, it’s a slight inconvenience to enter a six-digit code when you want to log on, but it’s a huge barrier for the crooks. With 2FA, a stolen password, by itself, is useless to them.

Prevention, Symptoms and Treatment of COVID-19

There’s currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The CDC recommends preventive actions every day to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask. (see below)
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing or being out in public.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

MORE TIPS FROM THE CDC:

The CDC doesn’t recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

Face masks should ONLY be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for COVID-19 cases, the CDC said. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus and include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

There’s no specific treatment recommended for COVID-19. People with COVID-19 should get care to help relieve symptoms. For severe cases, treatment should include care to support vital organ functions, the CDC said.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

MALWARE – Malicious Software

You’ve probably heard the term Malware, but do you really know what it is and how it gets onto your devices?

Malware refers to malicious software that is unwittingly downloaded on your computer or other devices. Once downloaded, you will more-than-likely become a victim of identity theft.

Malware
My Malware Protection Recommendation

Malware Infections Happen in Several Ways: 

Links or Attachments in Emails & Text Messages: You may open an attachment or click on a link in a phishing email or text message. Fraudsters will include links with an urgent message to entice or require you to click on them. In other words, the message is crafted to convince you that there is a need for you to take action or suffer the consequences of your inaction.

Fake Websites: Scammers often create authentic-looking, but fake websites, to trick you into entering your personal information. You may think you’re purchasing merchandise at a great price, or applying for a job, or perhaps you clicked on an article that caught your interest. Oftentimes, you just landed on a fake website because you typed the website address incorrectly by misspelling it or clicked on the wrong website during an internet search.

E-cards: These electronic cards are a fun and inexpensive way to celebrate a special occasion or holiday. But e-cards can be dangerous if they do not originate from a well-known e-card website. If someone sends one of these to you and it originated from a fake website, you may download Malware instead of an e-card.

Scammers: The “Tech Support Scam” is a good example of how it’s done.  An imposter, claiming to be from Microsoft, contacts you. They manage to convince you that your computer is infected with a virus. Next they ask you to give them control of your device, so as to assist you with getting rid of the virus. Alternatively, the imposter may convince you to download a program from their fake website to help erase the virus. Just realize that whichever of these options you choose, you will instead, be actually infecting your computer with Malware.

Once Malware is installed – you have opened yourself up to identity theft.

The malicious program will allow a criminal to have access to all the files on your computer. If you have any files that have personal information, such as copies of your credit report, tax return, bank or financial statements, the criminal will then be able to view all of these files.

Additionally, all the email addresses of those in your contact list will be readily available to exploit. The criminal will use the Malware program to send SPAM emails to everyone in your contact list – which will include tainted malicious links or attachments. Recipients of these SPAM emails, will think it is safe to open them, because the email came from you. As a result, everyone in your contact list can easily be infected with the same Malware.

Worst of all, the Malware program gives the criminal the ability to log (read) your keystrokes. This keystroke-logging program allows them to capture the pins, passwords, credit card or other personal information whenever you type them, via your keypad.

Moral of the story: 
  • NEVER click on links or open attachments in email or text messages.
  • Be wary of emails containing links or attachments even IF they appear to come from someone you know.
  • Type all website addresses very carefully.  Take notice how easy it is to misspell a web address or add or miss a letter. For example: ammazon.com or amzon.com or amazon.cm
  • Be careful what you click on when browsing the internet, including Ads, surveys or discount coupons – even on legitimate websites.
  • Don’t open e-cards unless you’re sure it’s legitimate. Do not open it if the sender is unknown to you.
  • Never give control of your computer to anyone you don’t know or trust.

ANGLER PHISHING NEWEST PHISHING TACTIC

ANGLER PHISHING – Beware of the Newest Tactic!

Phishing is a term used to describe a common tactic used by identity thieves to gain access to your personal information. It happens when a criminal attempts to lure or entice their victim into clicking on a link or opening an attachment in a text message, a social media message or in an email. If the victim complies, they are directed to provide personal information or even worse, the victim’s computer will become infected with Malware or Ransomware! Angler Phishing usually happens on social media.

ANYONE CAN FALL FOR IT

If a criminal already has any personal information about you or your family (gleaned from a data breach or social media site) they can put together a well-designed Phishing email. They will provide you with a reason to have to click on the link. Here’s an example: “Your daughter Lisa fell and hit her head at school today. Please click here to contact us for additional information”.

Angler Phishing Mssages

    Never Click on Email or text links on social media messaging inbox

Similarly, Spear-Phishing is an even more laser-focused Phishing attempt. For example, criminals will target the emails of employees in a company’s Human Resources Department. These Spear-Phishing emails are used to get payroll information to glean the Social Security numbers of the company’s employees.

NOW THERE’S A NEW PHISHING TACTIC

It is referred to as Angler Phishing. It begins when you as the customer, becomes upset with the service you received at a company you just did business with.  So, you post an angry comment about your experience on your social media account. Soon thereafter, you get a text or email response – which appears to have come from the company you posted a complaint about. The ‘customer service’ rep at the company offers to help you resolve their problem. The trap is now set!

You don’t realize that the person who contacted you is really a fraudster who read your post and is now impersonating the company you complained about. The fraudster attempts to lure you into clicking on a link to directly connect you with a customer service rep at the company. If you comply, then merely clicking on that link can result in you downloading Malware or Ransomware. Alternatively, the provided link will connect you to a fake customer service rep, who asks for personal information in order to reimburse you or resolve your issue. The Fraudster will then use your personal information to commit identity theft.

You MUST always be wary!

Angler Phishing usually happens on social media. So, make it a habit to NOT respond to any communications you receive through social media, because it is difficult to verify the legitimacy of the contact. If you receive a message from a company you complained about, contact the company directly or go to the company’s website instead of clicking on the link that is provided to you.

 

ANOTHER THING YOU NEED TO KNOW

When it comes to Angler Phishing, there’s another aspect you may not have given much thought to. It’s another part of ANY customer service situation. Never rely on a Google search to locate a customer service telephone number for a company. Some companies do NOT even have a customer service number to call them. They instead force you to go to their website to resolve an issue. Realize that the customer service number that you just found on Google may not really be the company’s legitimate customer service number. The number you found may be a scammer who set up a phony customer service number for that company. Then, when you call the number, the Imposter will phish for your personal information.  Then, the theft of your information will unfortunately make you a victim of Identity Theft!

TIPS:

  • NEVER click on links or open attachments in emails, text messages or your social media messaging inbox unless you substantiated its legitimacy  
  • Be wary of any unsolicited posts on social media
  • Never give your personal information to a stranger
  • Always do your research first – “Don’t Trust until you Verify” directly from reliable sources before engaging with anyone on social media.  
  • Log in to a company’s website by typing their web address into your internet browser – instead of clicking on links that could be tainted.
  • Be sure to have virus and malware protection on all your devices
  • Always keep your software updated – set them to automatically update

 

REPEAT AFTER ME…

NEVER EVER click on links or open attachments in emails, text messages or your social media messaging inbox.  99.9% of the time, they are tainted links. It is referred to as click-bait messages. Click-Bait is designed to entice you – with an urgent important message – that prompts you to click on a link – to remedy the situation.  

Phishing attacks come in two parts. First there’s the tempting click-bait email. Next the link in the message takes you to a look-alike fake website the scam artist controls.

When it comes to Identity Theft, I can’t stress enough how important it is to refrain from clicking on any links or opening up any attachments in an email unless you are 100% certain that it’s legitimate or if you initiated the contact. Criminals will never stop Phishing – so please – DON’T TAKE THE BAIT!

Read another one of my articles about Phishing here.

PHISHING EMAILS – You’re the Fish

When it comes to Phishing Emails – You’re the Fish!

It’s always Phishing Season for Fraudsters. Phishing attacks use emails and sometimes text messages or malicious websites to get information from their victims. The ruse is an attempt to lure you, under the pretense of a problem or an emergency, to click on a link or open an attachment. There is usually a circumstance that is presented to you that requires your attention and your follow-thru, in order to resolve an immediate problem or issue. The emails claim that there will be dire consequences if you ignore the message.

Phishing Emails
DON’T CLICK ON LINKS!

Phishing emails often have the look and feel of authentic communications. Company logos are easily cloned and used in fake phishing emails. Inconsistent or incorrect spelling and grammar are also a tell-tale sign of phishing emails.

Most legitimate emails from businesses would include your name and/or the last few digits of your account number. An email from a friend or family member should be personal in nature. These targeted messages can trick even the most cautious person into doing something that may compromise them. Even if the email is from a known source, people should use caution, because Cybercriminals are very good at mimicking trusted businesses, or even friends and family.

Phishing Emails are Designed to Infect a Victim’s Computer with Malware.

You want to avoid getting Malware installed on your computer.  Infections can result in your downloading keystroke-logging software that enables a scammer to steal information from you as you type passwords or account numbers on a website.

Malware also gives the cybercriminal the ability to use the email addresses of everyone in your email program to spread SPAM to all of them. Your friends and family may be fooled into believing the SPAM email is safe (because it’s from you); and will therefore click on a tainted link or infected attachment in the email.

TIPS and ADVICE

  • Never click on links or open/download attachments – unless you are 110% sure AND have confirmed that they are legitimate.
  • If you receive what appears to be a phishing email or text, always go directly to the source (not the info in an email) to confirm that this is not a scam.
  • Hover you mouse over the sender’s address. You may see that the email address is not consistent with the name of the company or it may be a long string of numbers and symbols that don’t make sense.
  • If calling a business to confirm the email’s legitimacy, be sure to call the correct phone number. In some instances, fraudsters will purchase phone numbers that are only one digit off from those of a legitimate company. These fake (usually toll-free numbers) are an effort to trap people who may mistakenly dial an incorrect number or area code of a bank, credit card issuer, or other legitimate organization.
  • Suspicious emails should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by forwarding the email to spam@uce.gov.  Be sure to report it to the legitimate organization that the email pretends to originate from. You can also report it to your email provider. Once you’ve done that, you should always delete the tainted email from your computer.