Keeping up with online scammers is a full-time job. As soon as they find some new local or national event that they can take advantage of, the fake phishing websites and emails start flowing.
The latest flood of scams in New Jersey and around the country has to do with the COVID-19 vaccine. These scams have become so prevalent that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put out a special fraud alert about them.
Phishing attackers prey on unsuspecting individuals and trick them with sophisticated traps. I often get frantic calls for tech support because someone has clicked on a phishing link and is afraid that they now have a virus on their computer.
These scams can also come from all different types of places, including:
In the internet age, even your mobile number may have been on a list that was sold by your mobile provider. So, you can’t assume only people you know would have the number.
It’s important to be on guard for these vaccine scams. Here are several to watch out for.
Offers to Purchase Your Vaccine Card or an Image of One
If someone online offers to pay you for a picture of your vaccine card, they could position this as an effort to reward you for being vaccinated and to promote safety. However, these offers aren’t altruistic. You should never post a photo of your vaccine card or give that information to anyone.
Scammers sell these cards on the Dark Web because they contain personal information.
While it may not seem like a lot of information on that card, it can be just enough when paired with other personal info that’s been gathered from public websites to get a credit card account opened in your name or some similar type of identity theft.
Offers to Sell You A Spot In Line for the Vaccine
You can’t trust everyone you meet online. Even if they seem nice. Scammers often use social phishing (fraud over social media) to get people to let their guard down so their trap will be more effective.
One woman had struck up a conversation with someone on the Bumble dating app and thought she was talking to a nice guy. He mentioned he had gotten the COVID vaccine and when she noted that she was also planning to get vaccinated, he offered her a “place in line” if she paid him to get the vaccine faster.
The vaccine is now widely available, and even when it was harder to get, there were no official vaccine distribution places that sold spots in line.
One scam that’s happening by phone, text, and email is for someone to claim they are taking a COVID vaccine survey. They’ll ask personal questions that they say are just part of the survey to get details that they can use for identity theft and other purposes.
If someone asks you where and when you and your family members got your vaccine doses, that’s enough information for them to doctor vaccine cards to sell or to conduct a phone scam on your family member.
For example, you might think nothing of saying to the fake surveyor, “My sister Clara and I both got our vaccines on the same dates.” Now that person can do a quick internet lookup to find Clara’s information and then call her claiming to be with the vaccine location or a medical office. Since the scammer already knows where and when she got her vaccine doses, she will be more likely to believe them and do as they ask.
Sales Ads for the COVID Vaccine
Watch out for online ads and email advertisements claiming to sell one of the COVID-19 vaccines. These are not for sale to the general public. If you see an ad offering to sell the vaccine, it’s most likely going to take you to a phishing site that will have you enter your credit card details, which will end up being stolen.
The scammer will also have your address, which could be used for other types of identity theft.
Tips to Avoid Falling Victim to a COVID Vaccine Scam
It’s important to stay vigilant when it comes to phishing and understand that these attackers will prey upon your emotions to get you to take an action. They’ll also often have more information about you than you may realize. This is used to gain your trust.
Tips for avoiding phishing scams:
Never click on links or attachments from unknown email senders
Never click on links or attachments in emails that appear to come from someone you know but that doesn’t make sense (such as “Hey! I thought you’d like to see this…”)
Use a DNS filter on your computer to block phishing websites
Use an email filter to block as many phishing emails as possible
Use an antivirus/anti-malware program on your computer
Never click links in social media messages from people you’ve only recently befriended
Hang up immediately on unknown callers that try to sell you something, are taking a “COVID survey,” etc. you do not have to engage with these people. Just hang up.
Learn How to Become an Expert at Identifying Phishing
Phishing can be easier to spot after some training to know what to look for. Come to CompuTara for personalized tutoring on phishing identification and safety.
Schedule a computer session today! Call or text me at: 862-368-4893 or Email me here.
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