The outbreak of COVID-19 called Coronavirus recorded across the world, including Nigeria, has seen the rise of online scammers leveraging the deadly virus.
As at yesterday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says that a total of 40 confirmed cases; 37 active cases; two discharged cases and one death arising from COVID-19, have so far been recorded by yesterday in the country.
Across the world, there are 334,981confirmed cases and 14,652 confirmed deaths across 190 countries, areas or territories with COVID-19 cases within the same period, according to the World Health Organisation’s website tracking the spread of the virus across the world.
“FBI is advising the Internet community to also keep Coronavirus scammers targeting online users at bay as the pandemic rages.”– FBI
But in a new twist, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is warning the Internet community that COVID-19 has sparked rising scammers leveraging the deadly virus to steal money, personal information or both from users of online services.
In the past few weeks, more people and organisations are going online as part of the social distancing recommended by health authorities to contain the spread of coronavirus.
FBI is advising the Internet community to also keep Coronavirus scammers targeting online users at bay as the pandemic rages.
“Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits”, the US law enforcement agency advises.
Internet users need to watch out for fake CDC emails “claiming to be from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other organisations claiming to offer information on the virus”, FBI says.
“Do not click links or open attachments you do not recognize. Fraudsters can use links in emails to deliver malware to your computer to steal personal information or to lock your computer and demand payment. Be wary of websites and apps claiming to track COVID-19 cases worldwide. Criminals are using malicious websites to infect and lock devices until payment is received”, the agency advises.
Internet users also need to look out for phishing emails “asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government.”
According to FBI, “while talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the news cycle, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money.”
Phishing emails may also claim to be related to charitable contributions, general financial relief, airline carrier refunds, fake cures and vaccines and fake testing kits.
FBI is asking the online community to “be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19. Be alert to counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns, and gloves.”
FBI says Internet users should always use good cyber hygiene and security measures when they are online.
According to the law enforcement agency, by remembering the following tips, Internet users can protect themselves and help stop criminal activity:
- Do not open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don’t recognize.
- Do not provide your username, password, date of birth, social security number, financial data, or other personal information in response to an email or robocall.
- Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
- Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (for example, an address that should end in a “.gov” ends in .com” instead).
- If you believe you are the victim of an Internet scam or cyber crime, or if you want to report suspicious activity, please visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre at www.ic3.gov.