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Think Before You Click: COVID-19 Edition

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — March 31, 2020 — 4 min read
For many, especially those with pre-existing conditions, it’s a scary time - COVID-19 is in North Carolina. Everyone wants to do something, but they feel like their hands are tied because they need to stay at home. Email and text scammers are profiting off fear by promising secret cures and posing as trustworthy charities. Phony news is circulating throughout social media and causing more panic.
 

The Dos and Don’ts of Technology During COVID-19

  • Don’t let fear lead you or your family into a dangerous financial situation caused by phishing.
  • Do look up ways to keep you and your family occupied while socially isolating.
  • Don’t spend all your time on social media obsessing about the virus.
  • Do use social media to remotely connect with friends and family.
  • Don’t fall for a phishing attempt that promises a cure or vaccine to the novel coronavirus (see below).
  • Do stay informed about COVID-19 using trustworthy sources.  

How to Catch Phishing During COVID-19

Phishing is when someone pretends to be a well-known company or organization online to get credit card or other personal information. As the COVID-19 situation progresses, it’s important to be cautious of these predators and learn the techniques of spotting the “phish.”

1. Know the facts about COVID-19. If you are well informed, you can identify phishing attempts that offer too-good-to-be-true COVID-19 remedies.
  • There is no cure for COVID-19 as of the publication of this article.
  • Claims that a certain over-the-counter medication or product will completely prevent COVID-19 are false.
  • A vaccine is being developed but will not be ready for at least a year.

Any email or text that is offering a cure or vaccine is a scam. Don’t fall for it!

2. Are you being promised free products? There have been cases of scammers promising free phones or computers to help families to connect during social isolation. Don’t believe emails or texts “giving away” expensive products for free.

3. Check the email and website link domains. Does the domain of the emailer or their linked website seem strange? Sometimes phishers will use domains that are similar to well-known domains to trick you. For example:
  • Fake Domain: info@worldhealthorganization.za.net
  • Real Domain: WorldHealthOrganizationNews@who.int

The best way to protect yourself is to research domains that look unfamiliar before you open the email or click on any links or attachments.

4. Are you expecting the email or message? If you aren’t subscribed to the World Health Organization’s email list, you probably wouldn’t be receiving an email from them. Don’t open emails from unknown or unexpected senders until you do a bit of research.

5. How well is the message written? Are there spelling and grammatical errors? Is the greeting generic (ex. To our valued customer)? These are signs of a phishing attempt.

6. Know the real COVID-19 relief charities. Some phishers are preying on those who want to help during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are real charities you can donate to:

Social Media Misinformation

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn will be full of misinformation about the coronavirus. What makes it even harder is that certain posts (like phishing) can look real. However, there’s no way of knowing if the graphic your friend shared about COVID-19 is true or not.
 
As you should do when reading emails, be cautious of what you read and share on social media. Here are a few general tips to remember:

Check the source. If the user posting the information is a well-known, unbiased resource like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), check that they have the “verified” icon next to their name (usually it’s a little blue checkmark).

Celebrities, influencers, and even lawmakers may have incorrect information. While the well-known celebrities and influential social media users can seem more credible, they don’t always have the best information. They are human and make mistakes, too.

Use social media for fun, not fear. Fear mongering is when someone is purposefully trying to cause panic about a subject. Unfortunately, many media outlets are doing this with misleading headlines and by burying key information that makes the article less frightening.

We want to be mindful, cautious, and considerate—but we also don’t want to panic or be the cause of panic. When in doubt, don’t share an article that you haven’t read through completely. Choose to use social media to virtually connect with family and friends instead. 

Get your COVID-19 information elsewhere. While many are getting all their information about COVID-19 from social media, help yourself by only looking at sources that are trustworthy and avoid bias. Great resources include:
Pay attention to the good, not just the bad. It seems like everyone is waiting for more bad news. Now, more than ever, it’s important that you focus on your mental wellbeing,  especially if you are in recovery

Remember why social media can be so great and try to use it for that purpose. Unite with others, share your social distancing antics, and talk about all the brave people who are going out of their way to help the community.   

Be Cautious, Be Compassionate, and Think Before You Click

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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