Sheriff’s Department: Beware of COVID-19 scams online

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is warning residents to beware of online scams and hacking attempts related to the COVID-19 emergency. Courtesy

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is warning residents to beware of online scams and hacking attempts related to the COVID-19 emergency.

The Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau and Emerging Cyber Trends Team have both seen an increase in fake emails, texts and phishing scams related to COVID-19.

Criminals are using these scams to gain access to your computer or network, as well as valuable personal information, such as account numbers, Social Security numbers or login IDs and passwords. Often, these scams appear to be from a familiar company or someone you know. 

Just clicking a link can allow scammers to install ransomware or other programs that can lock you out of your data, so do not click on unknown links from your cell phone or computer. Instead, verify these links by typing in the URL to trusted websites yourself.

Here are some common COVID-19 scamming tactics released by the FBI: 

Fake charities

Many concerned citizens are looking for ways to help in the current health crisis, and scammers are taking advantage of that by using names similar to those of real charities. Verify any donations by doing research into the charity first. Also, be sure to pay safely by credit card, never by gift card or wire transfer.

Fake CDC emails

Beware of emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other public health organizations, offering information on the virus. Do not click on links or open attachments you don’t recognize. Instead, go to trusted websites, such as covid19.lacounty.gov, covid19.ca.gov or coronavirus.gov.

Phishing emails

Though the government has begun offering a number of relief options for many of those who have been furloughed or laid off, they are not doing so individually. That being said, beware of phishing emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. Government agencies are not and will not be sending unsolicited emails seeking your private information in order to send you money.

Counterfeit virus treatments

As many are looking for ways to combat COVID-19, be cautious of anyone selling products claiming to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure the virus. There are a number of counterfeit products, such as personal protective equipment, or PPE, like N95 respirator masks, goggles, full-face shields, protective gowns and gloves, as well as sanitization products. For more information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE, visit cdc.gov/niosh.

Here are some tips on good cyber hygiene and security measures to follow in order to protect yourself and help stop criminal activity:

  • Do not click links or open attachments within emails from any sender you don’t recognize. Instead, always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
  • Do not give out your username, password, date of birth, Social Security number, financial data or other personal information in response to an email or unsolicited call.
  • Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link, such as web addresses that should end in “.gov” but end in “.com” instead.
  • Keep the software on your computer and cell phone up to date.
  • Use security software and keep that up to date as well.
  • Use multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts. 
  • Back up data and store it offline. 

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