Staying Vigilant Against Email Scams in the Midst of Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic is top of mind for everyone, and unfortunately, cybercriminals are all too eager to capitalise on our unprecedented circumstances to steal sensitive personal and financial data. One example of this is phishing scams, in which cybercriminals attempt to get access to details like passwords, credit card numbers or NI information through fake texts or emails linking a new offering or service to the virus.
For example, last week news broke of a fraudulent Netflix offer promising free subscriptions to help people pass the time while social distancing. It’s a nice idea but it’s not legitimate, and it’s far from the only Coronavirus-themed scam circulating online.
So, what can you do to spot these scams and ensure your personal and financial information stays safe? Following are a few basic security tips to consider:
Read the Subject Line:
The subject line can be very effective in alerting you to a possible phishing scam. Fraudsters typically convey a sense of urgency and personalisation in an attempt to pressure you into opening the email and acting quickly. Phrases like “[Your Name], Act Now!!!!”, “Urgent Coronavirus Update” and “Coronavirus Offer for [Your City] Only” are all examples of red flag subject lines.
Check the Sender:
It’s also important to review the sender’s email address. Right-clicking on your keyboard or hovering your mouse over the “from” will allow you to look for things like numbers, characters or additional letters that don’t seem to belong. These aren’t always a sign that something is wrong, but it’s an important step in identifying emails that may be fraudulent.
Phishing attempts will direct you to a web address, or URL, where you can sign up for the service. Always review these before you click on them to look for anything suspicious—for example, misspelt names or extra characters. The URL in the Netflix scam contained odd dashes and symbols. Of course, many URLs do include characters but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and contact the company first before clicking on any link that appears suspicious.
Grammar, Content and Layout:
The Netflix screenshot also highlights another common phishing characteristic: poor grammar. It’s always possible that a company might have a typo or grammar mistake in a legitimate communication, but when you spot multiple issues it’s a sign that something is amiss. The email content itself also can contain clues—for example, is it addressed to you or does it have a generic greeting like “Dear Sir”? In addition, reviewing the layout for odd spacing between words, multiple spaces between lines or no spacing at all can help you determine whether a message is fraudulent.
The steps outlined above can go a long way in helping protect you from the increase in phishing scams associated with the coronavirus pandemic. And be sure to keep an eye on this blog, as we’ll be exploring additional strategies for keeping your data safe in future posts.
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