Before the COVID-19 outbreak, everyone was vulnerable to a cyber-attack, including small businesses, manufacturing operations, large, and seemingly impenetrable, tech companies, friends, and family members. Now, amid the current coronavirus pandemic, we’re, unfortunately, seeing a spike.

The Federal Communications Commission and the United States Department of Justice recently reported an increase in the number of incidents involving scam text messages, robocalls, and emails. Most of which are enticing recipients to interact by making false promises, like access to complimentary coronavirus testing kits, vaccines, medical supplies, and health insurance policies.

Throughout this blog, you will learn more about cybercrime, a current COVID-19 email scam, and an essential insurance product that is specifically designed to safeguard you and your family.

The rise in cybercrime

Over the years, hackers have become more sophisticated and deliberate in their attempts to obtain personal data, extort money, infect WiFi-enabled smart devices, steal identities, and tarnish reputations. Cybercriminals target the vulnerable and prey on their fears and doubts, making the current pandemic the perfect landscape to launch a new assault. Additionally, digital crooks are tapping into our innate desire to seek and learn new information about the current health crisis.

Individuals and families are taking the necessary steps to protect themselves from COVID-19 by practicing social distancing, regularly washing their hands, and only going out in public for the essentials. However, it is equally as important to be just as vigilant and on the defensive while surfing the internet, checking your email, or letting the kids download a game or app to the family tablet.

With cybercrime on the rise, the Fred C. Church team is taking a closer look at one of the aforementioned cyber threats, phishing emails, as well as explaining how to protect yourself and where you can find authentic COVID-19-related information during this unprecedented time.

What is a phishing email?

A phishing email is designed to entice you, the recipient, to click on or open a corrupt link or attachment to infect your computer and gain access to your personal data. Once inside the device, the hacker may threaten the recipient with a data compromise and demand payment, also known as social engineering or cyber extortion. It is equally as likely that the phisher may infect your computer with malicious software, or malware, granting them the ability to access your personal information behind the scenes without you even knowing about it.

How to spot a COVID-19-related phishing email

Have you recently received an email from the “CDC Health Alert Network,” “CDC-INFO National Contact Center,” or the “World Health Organization” instructing you to download an attachment to learn more about proper safety measures, a local outbreak, or access to healthcare?

Well, you may have been the target of a phishing email.

According to Norton Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), these are just a few examples of the types of COVID-19-related phishing emails currently circulating the internet.

If hackers are disguising themselves as trustworthy organizations, it may seem next to impossible to spot a fake email. However, fraudulent emails often reveal a few giveaways if you know where and what to look for. Norton Security is an excellent resource for cybersecurity best practices and recently shared key pointers to help avoid getting duped.

Phishing emails generally:

  1. Pose as a trustworthy organization to trick you into willingly providing personal information via a form or downloading malware unsuspectingly. In the case of COVID-19, phishers have been reportedly mimicking the CDC and WHO. Even during these unprecedented times, it is unlikely that a large federal organization would email you directly. Remember that it is always in your best interest to refrain from opening an email from a person or organization you don’t recognize.
  2. Tell a story to trick you into clicking on a malicious link or corrupted attachment. For example, most of the current virus-related phishing emails claim that they have information about a sudden outbreak in the local community and that a vaccine has been approved and is in limited supply. Reputable media sources in your area would likely cover this kind of news. Therefore, we recommend you do your due diligence first before clicking on anything in an email.
  3. Encourage you to act or respond ASAP. Phishing emails try to create a sense of urgency, asking you to complete a form or click a link immediately. Don’t be fooled by these startling call-to-actions. Re-read the email again before taking action.
  4. Include a low-resolution logo. Hackers often cut and paste logo images that they find online. This, in turn, causes the logo to look fuzzy, indistinct, or tiny when added to the fake email.
  5. Contain grammatical errors. When skeptical of an email, read it aloud. Does it sound strange to you? Are there odd capitalizations, misspellings, or blatant grammatical errors? If the email sounds off or unprofessional, it is likely a phishing email.

The current COVID-19 situation is forcing everyone to create new routines as well as juggle a growing list of responsibilities, including work, child care, self-care, home-schooling, and more. As a result, you may feel a bit more distracted than usual and, thus, likely to let your guard down while online. The Fred C. Church team is here to remind you to stay vigilant and keep these tips top of mind to safeguard yourself and your family from this unfortunate cyber outbreak.

How to protect against a COVID-19 email scam

In addition to avoiding and deleting any emails that encourage you to act quickly or that don’t feel right, you may want to consider adding a cyber insurance endorsement to your homeowners policy as an extra layer of protection.

Sometimes simply being skeptical and cautious online isn’t enough, especially since hackers’ tactics are becoming more sophisticated every day. As a result, we strongly encourage you to consider adding cyber coverage to your personal insurance plan to protect you from the unexpected. A quality cyber insurance policy is designed to safeguard you and your family from a variety of digital threats. While no two insurance endorsements are identical, your coverage may include cyber extortion and ransomware, cyber financial loss, cyberbullying, cyber disruption, cyber breach of privacy, and more.

The team at Fred C. Church has partnered with many of the top insurance carriers in the industry. These partnerships allow us to offer a variety of cyber insurance options that are sure to fit your individual needs. If you would like to chat with an account representative about adding cyber insurance to your policy, please contact us to learn more. We are happy to discuss coverage options and help you uncover your digital vulnerabilities.

How Fred C. Church can help during this time

When looking for information about COVID-19 and the evolving situation in your community, it’s important to go direct to the source or to a resource hub you trust. This includes visiting official government and healthcare agency websites, such as Mass.gov, the CDC, WHO, as well as our secure COVID-19 Resource Center.

For more information on Fred C. Church, our personal insurance offerings, or to take advantage of a complimentary policy review, please request a meeting with a member of our personal insurance team.

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