A growing number of online fraudsters are exploiting the public fear surrounding the COVID-19, and use the pandemic to lure people into clicking phishing emails and installing malwares capable of stealing personal data and money.
Fear during the crisis exposes Filipinos to data privacy risks, predisposing them to make hasty, ill-informed choices online that fraudsters take advantage of.
Given these risks, the National Privacy Commission appeals to Filipinos to be very careful online, especially when using online financial services and accessing health-related apps.
“Be cautious with the sites you visit, enhance your privacy settings, and protect your personal data,” Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro said.
He noted that in this period of home quarantine, digital access becomes the main gateway not just for news but also for coordinating tasks with co-workers, making online financial transactions and getting in touch with loved ones.
“Indeed, now is the worst possible time to fall victim to online fraudsters. They can steal your sensitive data, cause you financial and reputational damages, make your device unusable and cut you off from the outside world,” Liboro said.
He urged Filipinos to familiarize themselves with the warning signs:
• Do not give out your personal data in suspicious COVID-themed emails and messages.
Is the email or message unsolicited? Does it urgently encourage you to open the attached file? Is it promising COVID vaccines or cure that you have not heard of at all in the news or credible websites? Do not click them. It is most likely a phishing attack that steals your financial data such as credit card or online banking details.
• Make trusted government and other legitimate websites your go-to source for the latest COVID information.
We have a lot of questions about the pandemic. We will not find these answers, however, on some random websites or applications. What we may find on these sites instead are suspicious links, pop-ups and downloadable files, resulting in a ransomware infection that locks us out of our devices. Not only do you protect yourself from ransomware by relying on trusted sources, you also get to avoid misinformation.
• Ensure that the charity or crowd funding campaign you plan to donate to is legitimate.
Research online or through your social media contacts from whom you learned of the charity or crowd funding campaign. Know where the donations will go. Think twice if the charity rushes or pressures or makes unrealistic promises just to get one to donate. When making a donation, be sure to check your bank statement and see if you’ve been charged the right amount.
• Be mindful of phishing baits from online scammers.
Scammers want people to click on a link or give their password, account number and other personal information. This way they can steal one’s identity, money and gain access to your computer or cellphone. To do this, they use familiar company names or pretend like someone knows. They pressure one to act now or else.