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How to Avoid Coronavirus Scams

April 12, 2020
Civil Liberties

The current global pandemic is inducing anxiety and panic around the world, as citizens everywhere struggle through these unchartered territories. Travel restrictions, school closures, and lockdowns have nearly everyone on edge—but that doesn’t mean you should drop your guard when it comes to your digital privacy, which is at an even higher risk right now.

As is the case with any major world event, the scammers are coming out of the woodwork, preying on the fears so many understandably are experiencing. And they’re targeting people where they are: stuck at home, on their mobile devices and computers. While the internet has been used for tremendous good during this time—we’ve all seen the viral videos of citizens on lockdown joining together in song, or the many online campaigns to rally funds and support for those who’ve lost their jobs in this crisis—it’s also become a magnet for coronavirus scams.

Here are a few reminders to keep yourself safe and secure during this uncertain time:

Be Cautious When Purchasing

Lines in grocery stores are long and many people don’t want to leave their houses, prompting them to turn to the internet for purchases. However, price gouging has become a real issue, so consider comparing prices and avoid the urge to panic buy. Similarly, several items, such as masks and hand sanitizer, are in such popular demand that scammers are selling counterfeit items online – if it sounds too good to be true, and is at a price that also seems too convenient, then it likely is.


Make Smart Social Media Decisions

Many of us are getting our news and staying connected through social media. Make sure to thoroughly vet any news items you share through multiple sources; that’s a smart strategy to employ any time of the year but especially now as rumors can further inflame already tense situations. The situation is changing rapidly, so be wary of jumping on the bandwagon and reacting to stories before you vet them.

Additionally, in your social media feed you may see requests to fill out a survey or take a poll, but you have to sign up with your email address in order to see the results. Often scammers will use this technique to get you to give them your email address while they also capture information about you through platforms like Facebook. Before you dive in, ask yourself about the account that is requesting your information. Is it associated with a reputable company, website, or news organization? Would you be comfortable getting emails from this organization, or does it seem like they might send spam?

Read the Fine Print

Many companies are trying to capitalize on the captive audiences they have by offering free services, but some coronavirus scammers have gotten onboard and are burying troublesome language in the fine print. Make sure to read all disclaimers before signing up for any service. Once the world starts to get back to a new normal, you don’t want to find yourself trapped into a costly subscription that you didn’t realize you were signing up for.


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