Don’t Click That Link!

Swindlers are taking advantage of the C-19 pandemic. Protect
yourself from their scams.

You’ve probably heard the old saw, “don’t touch that dial”, hundreds of times. It’s an oft-used command to keep you watching or listening to the TV or radio program you are tuned to while the program takes a commercial break or two.

Here’s another one that’s swept into our lexicon and landed with great alarm: “don’t click that link”. But this one is serious – no, very serious — and anyone who uses a computer or cell
phone to view email, or text messages, should be ever vigilant before clicking on anything from an unknown source.

Scams are on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission has already received more than 14,000 corona-virus complaints in the first quarter. Schemes involving stimulus checks, airline refunds, charities, fines for breaking social-distancing rules, and unproven treatments of all kinds are designed to get you to respond or take some kind of action through email, texts, and calls.

Due to the stress people are under during a pandemic of this proportion it opens up new avenues for attackers to prey on us all, but particularly older adults – often times because they have more disposable income – and are more likely to pay attention to urgent messages.

“We’re a captive audience at home, says Amy Nofziger, director of AARP’S Fraud Watch Network. We’re all in this high emotion state and when the phone rings I think it’s a family member or neighbor that needs help.”

“The most susceptible group are those without a support network. And social distancing makes these people more likely to respond to phishing emails, suspicious links, robo or telemarketing calls,” says Marian Liu, assistant professor at Purdue University’s Center on Aging.

In a recent feature section coverage of the coronavirus for the Wall Street Journal, tech columnist Nicole Nyugen highlighted some tips to be aware of and detect as scammers attempt to attack your emails, texts and cell phone communications.

Scammers elicit fear. Take a deep breath before you take any action on a communication from anyone you don’t know. If you feel rushed, that’s a red flag.

Be aware of number spoofing by robocallers. Spoofing is when a criminal manipulates what shows up on your caller ID to make it appear as a number from government, a local caller, or even your own number. If you’re not sure, let it go to voice mail.

Divert texts from unknown senders. In iOS, go to Settings, then Messages, to turn on Filter Unknown Senders. You can also block people by tapping on their phone number and scrolling down to Block this Caller. In Android, open the Messages app and expand Settings.

Use a password manager. Password managers only auto-fill credentials for the correct website ensuring that you’re not duped by a fake.

Keep your tech’s software up-up-to-date. Those pop-ups reminding you of updates to your phone or computer operating system are annoying, but they are critical in protecting you from security flaws.

Don’t click links or download attachments. If you’re suspicious, you can use a scam checker to verify links or files.

Don’t send money or share personal information over the phone. If you’re sending money to a charity, go directly to that charity’s website to donate. The government won’t send out text messages that ask for personal details.

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