Van Beek: Face masks won’t protect against scams
The joke going around is that all of the sudden, having a mask, latex gloves, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and rope, in your trunk is OK; and entering a bank wearing a mask is now a requirement. How things change!
While we are all getting dressed up like we are about to film a scene from a bank heist movie, there are true dangers surfacing, which will not appear as obvious.
As we adapt to our temporary “normal,” so are criminals. They have put on their creative hats and have come up with ways in which to take advantage of our current uncertainties and new methods of relief delivery.
When it comes to cybersecurity, there are agencies with infinitely better resources of detection — however, some things are quite old-school. We must remind ourselves that as brilliant as we may think we are, during times of vulnerability, we are susceptible to old scams, and many that are surfacing are merely variations of the same old trick.
Here are a few of the areas of concern.
Be careful of emails asking for donations or personal information. If you receive an email that requests you to click on a link or open an attachment, even if it says it’s from your bank, the government, or a charitable organization, you should not click on that link but rather, log into the official website directly. Cybercriminals are excellent at duplicating logos and letterheads which look official but will take you to nefarious websites where identity and direct monetary theft take place. Attachments may contain malware or computer viruses that can steal personal information from your computer, which may contain passwords and other private data. This includes messages that you just won a million dollars!
Don’t be fooled into purchasing at-home diagnostic kits or remedies from unknown sources. While there are many healthy options available to increase your immune system by promoting good health practices, there are currently no cures to COVID-19 and no at-home diagnostics. Save your money.
Hang up on robocalls. Aside from being annoying, they may also be promoting items or services that have questionable value, at the least. Many fraudulent solicitations come from abroad via robocall.
When buying online, go only to familiar sources, and don’t provide credit card numbers to sites that you don’t know. If motivated to do so, use payment sources that don’t require direct input of card information, such as those that will process payments through established sources like Apple Pay, PayPal, or banking systems.
Beware of contacts that promise immediate payment of government checks. Money being disbursed is in-process and can easily be verified on official websites … there are no shortcuts.
Be cautious of anyone requesting payments via the wiring of funds or the use of gift cards. Also, any sense of urgency of purchase should raise warning flags. When in doubt, verify.
While not a major concern in our community, we are on I-70 and there have been concerns about fake law enforcement, stopping people for violations of stay-at-home orders, along the highway. In Eagle County, we have taken a firm stand on advising and supporting local, state, and federal regulations, without infringing on an individual’s rights.
In enforcing public health orders, we respect that our community will exercise good judgment and if they are out, that they have good reason for leaving their homes and risking contamination. However, if someone is engaged in illegal activity and that activity also defies health orders, they will be held responsible for both violations. Meanwhile, if in doubt about the credentials of a deputy or officer, call 911 before entering an unmarked vehicle.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home through several platforms.
- The National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline can be reached at 866-720-5721 or via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The FBI takes tips at http://www.tips.fbi.gov.
- Report cyber (internet) scams at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
We are a community that cares. Please reach out to those who may need assistance. Stay healthy, remain safe, and be happy!
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at email@example.com.