Be wary of email scams

Students+received+a+message+on+their+InSite+email+from+Los+Medanos+College+about+the+potential+threat+of+spam+emails+with+malware+and+viruses+on+them.+

Krys Shahin

Students received a message on their InSite email from Los Medanos College about the potential threat of spam emails with malware and viruses on them.

Dante Harrold, Staff Writer

The Coronavirus unfortunately is not the only virus people need to worry about catching. As more and more people begin to fret over the world’s most recent pandemic, some have decided to exploit the crisis for their own benefit. 

“One of the things that’s most concerning to us are phishing scams with a coronavirus theme,” said Herb Stapleton, a section chief in the FBI’s cyber criminal section. “This is a vector or an approach that we didn’t see three months ago and now is suddenly successful.”

Satish Warrier, Director of Information Technology for the Contra Costa Community College District, put out a statement warning students and staff of a malicious website pretending to be Johns Hopkins University and having a live map of Coronavirus cases. These emails can be sent to your InSite addresses and should be immediately deleted. Security experts say that merely visiting such a site could infect a computer with information stealing programs. 

During this time of social and economic upheaval more people have less money to spend to address the problems that could arise once their computer is infected. One malware package, called “Trickbot,” typically tries to steal banking credentials, and the other, named “Fareit,” which can log a person’s keystrokes, typically tries to steal any and all login credentials.

There is also the risk of people believing in false information, concerning how to treat or detect the virus. A popular false email purports to be from Stanford, which details a bunch of tips in regards to how to deal with the Coronavirus that are complete lies. 

For example one such tip is “Even if the virus gets into your mouth, drinking water or other liquids will wash them down through your throat and into the stomach. Once there, your stomach acid will kill all the virus.” 

Loren Rauch, an emergency room doctor in Los Angeles who has a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology, told Mother Jones this advice was “totally bogus.”

Another tip counted on this email is that a sunny day could ward off the Coronavirus. This is especially dangerous given health officials have repeatedly urged the public to practice social-distancing when possible. If a person believes that they do not have to worry about catching the virus, or possibly spreading it when going outside just because it’s warm they are putting themselves, and others at risk. 

Unfortunately, these types of scams are far from rare. The World Health Organization is frequently impersonated by scammers trying to trick people concerned about catching the COVID-19 virus. Their official website explains how one could spot a bad actor.  

“Make sure the sender has an email address such as ‘person@who.int’. If there is anything other than ‘who.int’ after the ‘@’ symbol, this sender is not from WHO. WHO does not send email from addresses ending in ‘@who.com’, ‘@who.org’ or ‘@who-safety.org’ for example.”

There is also the threat of people sending requests for money for nice sounding, decidedly fake charities. For example, many scammers send emails asking for donations to help distribute a vaccine for the Coronavirus in China. There is no vaccine for the Coronavirus yet. 

The FBI, the Secret Service and security firms urge people to do the following: “Avoid opening attachments and clicking on links within emails from senders you don’t recognize. Always independently verify that any requested information originates from a legitimate source. Refuse to supply login credentials or financial data in response to an email.”

Visit websites by inputting their domains manually instead of clicking on links.

“Making the public aware of how to protect themselves is a really important step in stopping this type of activity,” Stapleton said.

People can report bogus emails to the FBI by going to www.ic3.gov or by typing Internet Crime Complaint Center into Google and clicking the top link.