6 Tips for Protecting Your Data During a Pandemic
You’ve heard it before – if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. This is especially accurate during times of uncertainty, such as a pandemic. The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have released common scams that have been popping up in an attempt to take advantage of people when they’re most vulnerable. We’ve compiled some tips to help keep you safe but remember – this is not an exhaustive list but rather the most commonly known to authorities.
- Don’t respond to emails, calls or texts about checks from the government. If you filed taxes in 2018/2019, the government likely has the information needed to send you a stimulus check – electronically or physically. You don’t have to “sign up” to receive your check (stimulus or any other check) so anyone asking for your personal information – social security number, bank account number – is likely a scammer.
- Be wary of emails claiming to be from the government, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). While an email may legitimately look like it’s from one of these organizations, they rarely, if ever, send emails. These types of emails – also known as phishing emails – try to get your personal information while posing as organizations you trust – government agencies, your bank, your credit card company, etc. If you’re unsure whether an email is legitimate, call the organization directly (using the contact information from their website not the suspect email) and ask if they have been trying to reach you.
- Donate directly to an organization you wish to help. The PSP are aware of phone calls being made in an attempt to fundraise for the CDC and WHO. These organizations are not making such calls so do not give out any personal information. Visit www.charities.pa.gov to verify the legitimacy of a charity in Pennsylvania.
- There are malicious websites that are mirroring, or copying, legitimate agencies in an attempt to infect your computer with a virus to steal personal information. The PSP warns about such a website posing as the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases map. Remember to type the web address to these sites directly into your internet search bar or ensure you’re on a legitimate website by double checking the web address. Many of these organizations have web addresses that end in .gov or .org.
- CDC – www.cdc.gov
- WHO – www.who.int
- PSP - www.psp.pa.gov
- FTC – www.ftc.gov
- FDA – www.fda.gov
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations as there isn’t a vaccine or product proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
- Do not purchase a COVID-19 test kit online. Most at-home test kits are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you need to be tested, contact your doctor or local hospital.
This post is not meant to be a comprehensive list of scams, nor does this constitute legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to do their own research and contact the appropriate agencies if they feel they are being targeted with a scam.