Watch out! COVID-19 contact tracing scams are on the rise
The spread of COVID-19 has triggered a wave of scams. Some trick you into giving personal information, while others con money out in the name of donations to WHO and other prominent organizations. Now, adding more to this, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned about a new COVID-19 scam, one that revolves around contact-tracing. Here's all about it.
Contact-tracing for COVID-19 is on around the world
All COVID-19-hit countries, from the US to India, are using contact-tracing to find and quarantine people who may have been exposed to the deadly novel coronavirus. The process works either through the use of contact-tracing apps like Aarogya Setu or manually, where trained individuals trace and get in touch with potentially infected people via SMS/call to warn them about quarantining themselves.
Now, fraudsters are using this 'manual' tracing for scams
While contact-tracing is extremely useful, scammers have started exploiting it to send out malicious SMSes, says Colleen Tressler, an FTC consumer education specialist, in a public alert. She notes, "Scammers, pretending to be contact tracers and taking advantage of how the process works, are also sending text messages. Theirs are spam text messages that ask you to click a link. Don't take the bait."
How these messages could target you?
As Tressler explained, scammers can pretend to be contact-tracers and send a message saying: "Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested." Then, it could prompt you to learn more by clicking on a link, which might be configured to download malware on your phone or mine sensitive personal information like passwords.
Few ways can help you avoid such scams
While different states and countries could be sending out different messages to warn people about COVID-19 contact, some basic elements could certainly help you distinguish a fake COVID-19 contact message from a legit one. For instance, an official message would include the official link to the government's website and it will never ask for your personal or financial information in any case.
Also, use spam-blocking tools if possible
Along with knowing the basic qualities of a legit warning message, you can also use your phone's blocking features or third-party apps to filter out most of the spam and junk messages. Also, enable two-factor authentication and anti-virus protection on your phone so that your phone and online accounts remain protected even if you fall for a fake message.