Stay alert to the Coronavirus cybersecurity threat

Be aware that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) may pose a potential cybersecurity threat to Americans in addition to a health threat.

As the virus spreads across the U.S., so do cyber criminals intent on taking advantage of you.

“The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrong-doers seeking to profit from public panic, and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated,” said Attorney General William Barr in a recent staff memo.

cybersecurity graphic

The U.S. Justice Department cites cybersecurity threats that include:

  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other scams.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, organizations leading the effort to fight the crisis.
  • Malicious websites and apps (known as ransomware) that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

Santander Consumer USA guidance

Cyber criminals already have started to distribute Coronavirus phishing emails and scam calls that include decoy health advisories, Coronavirus cures, stimulus payments and health supplements in an attempt to steal money and personal information.

Santander Consumer USA (SC) suggests you follow these cybersecurity guidelines, as they may help keep your information safe:

  • Keep your software up to date on all your devices.
  • Regularly check your privacy settings.
  • Open or respond only to emails from known email addresses.
  • Keep your passwords safe.

“It is very important to stay vigilant against scams right now, because criminals are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus,” said Carlos Gonzalez, SC director of security assurance. “Scammers don’t take a break, and we cannot take a break on our vigilance.”

Advice from the FTC

Here’s what the Federal Trade Commission recommends:

  • Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. At this time, there are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the virus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
  • Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could infect your computer or device.
  • For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

You can find more helpful information on the cybersecurity threat on the FTC website.

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