Catch Of The Week: Coronavirus Email Scams

Los Alamos


So if you’ve seen the brilliant movie “Groundhog Day” where Bill Murray lives out the same brutal day over and over, basically this is the cybersecurity situation today.  Another day, another phishing scam.

The World Health Organization has just classified the coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency. In addition to having to worry about it spreading across the world, we also have to worry about it infecting our inboxes.

Yes, scammers are spamming everyone with phishing emails about coronavirus. Consumer advocates across the country are warning people not to click the links in these phishing emails. 

One email circulating asks people to click on a link for an update on coronavirus cases near them. This is not the way to get updates on coronavirus. You can find reliable updates in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website; they will never email you and ask you to click a link for updates on a disease outbreak.

Other scams out there claim to give people access to the coronavirus vaccine (which does not exist yet). Some scam emails claim to come from a “virologist” or other medical provider and have a PDF attachment, or a link, with “prevention tips” (malware!). Scammers will play on your fear and uncertainty by stating things like, “This one little measure can save you! Click here!”  

Cybercriminals frequently take advantage of global current events or confusion, launching phishing campaigns themed around these topics. Threat actors are opportunistic and creative; they are highly motivated to get you to click so they can steal your money, your sensitive personal information, or your credentials. 

Avoid this scam, don’t click on links or open attachments from unknown sources, and delete them immediately. Always make sure your computer’s OS (Operating System) and antivirus programs are up to date. 

Another thing to consider when dealing with global uncertainty, you need to be wary of misinformation and conspiracy theories.  Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok have been flooded with misleading and untrue “news” stories about the coronavirus.

Take any news you see on social media with a grain of salt, and always verify with a legitimate news agency before sharing a sensationalistic story. 

Editor’s note: Becky Rutherford works in information technology at Los Alamos National Laboratory.