by Maureen Donohue
An unfortunate fact is that there will always be someone looking to take advantage of our better natures, to better themselves and their situations – at the expense of ours.
As the world enters year two of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and just as vaccines are starting to be available and administered, it is worth looking at our “informational health.” As much as we need to take care of our medical health, it is also important to stay vigilant in our personal privacy practices. Protecting our personally identifiable information, and that of our loved ones, is critical to preserving our identities and maintaining responsible data practices.
Criminals delight in causing mayhem while we adjust to disruptive events such as health crises. Below are some recommendations and resources to assist during (and after) the coronavirus pandemic:
- Beware of phone scams: Phone solicitations asking for personal information are rampant during times of panic and fear. If a caller claims they have a vaccine in exchange for your personal information (passwords, account numbers, social security number, banking information, etc.), hang up. Those requests are all clear red flags that the call is a scam.
- Avoid online phishing surveys: Increasingly, scammers are utilizing online surveys to obtain personal information. The surveys typically start with very general click response/multiple choice questions. They usually progress to open-ended questions designed to collect your personal information, so they can steal your identity. When you are invited to complete an online survey, verify the originating source and be wary of providing too much information.
- Confirm contact tracers: Learn how to tell the difference between a real contact tracer and a scammer. Legitimate tracers need health information, not money or personal financial information.
- Guard against government payment scams: Scammers claiming to be from the IRS may ask for your personal information, try to charge fees or offer to get you your check early. Never respond to texts, emails or calls about payments from the government – and never send money.
- Ignore COVID miracle cures: Ignore email, text, phone and online offers for vaccinations and miracle treatments or cures. Scammers are claiming to sell products that treat or prevent COVID-19, without any proof that they work.
- Hang up on robocalls: Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low- priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes. Do not speak when they call; simply hang up.