The other pandemic

Cybersecurity Awareness Reminders

Social distancing, shelter in place… these things are increasingly excuses for more government control of our daily lives and the economy. Hopefully these phrases (and the government abuse) will soon become a memory. But we know that one thing that will be here for quite some time is the rash of scams on-line, by phone, and other ways. Now, these are increasingly based upon COVID-19. Yes, we are STILL in a second kind of pandemic…the Scammer Pandemic.

This has been going on for a long time, and the COVID-19 Panic has made many banks and other firms add additional procedures to verify that they are indeed talking to the right person, and so that YOU know you are talking to the real service-provider.  (One example is the entity sending you a confirmation code on your phone to enter into the website or tell the person you have called.) Remember that scammers work BOTH ends of the business relationships.

As with the now-infamous Social Security and IRS scams, one of the most disturbing COVID-19 scams begins with a phone call. Caller ID may indicate that the call is coming from a health care or government official and that a loved one has been hospitalized with coronavirus (COVID-19). They attempt to get you to give them credit card information, over the phone, now, to “prepay the hospital bills”. It doesn’t stop there. Scammers are now showing at your door. The e-mails are telling you loved ones need money because of the Lockdown. Other calls and visitors are selling toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and more – that all turns out to be bogus. How do you stay safe from these predators?

When on the Phone

         · Never trust caller ID.

         · Understand that banks and credit card companies and government agencies are NOT going to call you (about these sorts of things). For valid information, check their websites.

         · If in doubt, ask for the caller’s name and the name of the agency/organization that they claim to represent. Hang up. If it was a legitimate visit, call the organization using a number from their website directly to ask for the information.

When at Home

         · Just like the phones, banks, credit card companies, hospitals and government agencies are NOT going to pay you a visit at home. Do NOT let these folks into your homes.

         · Ask for ID and their supervisor’s name to contact to ”confirm“ the visit.

         · Again, never call a number that is provided to you, always look them up yourself.

         · And never provide personal information.

When on-line or with text messages

         · Just like the phones and home visits, none of these entities are going to send you an email which tells you to email them back details or demand immediate payment through a link in the email.

         · Move your cursor across a link in an email – no matter HOW legitimate the e-mail appears – to see if that really WILL link you to a known company website, or to some hacker’s site. Also, double-check the e-mail address of the sender to see if it IS really the entity’s and not something bogus.

         · Again, never call a number that is provided to you, always look them up yourself.

         · And never provide personal information.

In any case – mail, phone, home, internet, never NEVER provide personal information.

A Final Reminder              

The security of your personal information should be your primary goal. Banks, medical providers, government agencies, credit card companies, and delivery services will never ask you for confidential information like your full social security number, full bank account number, debit or credit card numbers, CVV, or PIN in an email, via a website, online chat, or from an unsolicited phone call that THEY make to you. In addition, most legitimate organizations will never call you and ask for a Verification Code. Standard banking and credit security procedures state that they will only ask for a Verification Code over the phone when you have initiated the call and in response to an action that you requested.

If you receive a suspicious email or phone call requesting confidential information, claiming to be some bank or other organization, it is usually best to notify the company or organization the spammer and spoofer was pretending to be. Tell your REAL contact the date and time of the call, the number of the caller, and the caller ID – if any.  Most organizations have an address to forward suspicious emails/texts/SMS messages to. Often something like They DO investigate.  And sometimes, they catch the bad guys.

Generally, don’t bother with reporting it to government agencies, federal, state, or local.  They can do little or nothing with the information. And can consume lots of your time.Yes, it feels like we are fighting three battles, one medical, one political, and one technologic. We can prevail, all we need to do is work together. Stay safe.

(From an idea by a credit union.)

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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