by John Nicholas
Beware and be smart! The scams are coming in force.
Cyber criminals are on the loose and they are taking advantage of the COVID-19 emergency. Remember that nearly all phone communication is digital now, so our phones are also cyber targets. Hackers often use predictive dialing tools and random false phone number generators to make themselves look legitimate.
You will get phone calls that claim they are from a government agency — or a business, or a doctor or hospital, or a bank — and they will not be who they claim to be at all.
If you see a number that you do not know, do not answer it. Let it go to voicemail. If it is a legitimate call — for example, a reminder for a doctor’s appointment — they will leave a message that identifies both themselves and you. The same goes for emails, texts and regular mail.
If a caller asks you for any personally identifiable information, do not give it to them. This includes:
- Your name
- Date of birth
- Email address
- Social security number
Assume any call from someone you don’t know asking for any identifiable information is a scam. Assume any email from someone you don’t know — or even from an address that looks like your bank, phone provider or computer company — is a fake.
If in doubt, hang up, look up the number from your contacts or the company’s actual website, and call them back.
If you get an email from a company, do not click on the “respond” link in the email. Instead, go to the company’s website and contact support that way. Hackers can imitate email addresses and, when we click their links, they can harvest our information.
Also, don’t always click on the first match that comes up when you use a search engine. Verify the link will take you to the company or institution you’re looking for.
In other words: Do not believe social media posts, emails, phone calls or hearsay. Go directly to the organizations that have the real information to verify everything you hear for the foreseeable future. Verify everything before giving any information to anyone, too.
If your phone or computer begins to behave erratically, run your anti-virus immediately.
The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website has some useful warnings: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/02/coronavirus-scammers-follow-headlines
For trustworthy information about COVID-19, visit:
The World Health Organization: https://www.who.int
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/
The State of Ohio Department of Health: https://odh.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/odh/home
Dr. John B. Nicholas is a Professor of Computer Informations Systems and Co-Founder of the Cybersecurity Degree Track at The University of Akron. Dr. Nicholas has over 30 years experience in the technology field in both the private sector and higher education.