The Latest Mobile Scams & How To Stay Safe

By on Apr 15, 2020

If the challenges of working from home, connecting with family, and keeping on top of the news have you grabbing your phone more than ever, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, scammers are capitalizing on this opportunity. From fake apps, and dangerous text messages to phishing phone calls, mobile scams are multiplying, potentially putting your personal data and devices at risk.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently warned that they received a spike in user complaints as fraudsters look to take advantage of the current state of affairs. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to protect your privacy and security.

But first, here are a few things to watch out for:

Fake Apps

Looking for apps to help you track health information and find supplies? The scammers have you covered. They’ve released a number of malicious health-related apps designed to track you instead. These phony apps may ask for access to your photos, files, and location, or use spyware that can remotely turn on your camera or microphone.

One dodgy app offers to help you locate N-95 masks, but don’t download it. If you do, the app locks your device and demands a ransom to unlock it. This just shows how common forms of attack, like ransomware, evolve with current events.

Another handful of phony apps making the rounds appear to be for popular video conferencing platform Zoom, which has seen exponential growth as more people work from home. But installing these phony apps can download malware instead, so make sure you go to the official company’s app.

Risky Text Messages

Phishing by text message, or “smishing,” continues to be a popular way to hook mobile users. The scammers are usually trying to get you to click on a link, which sends you to a risky website or downloads malware onto your device. We’ve seen recent smishing attempts asking to verify personal and banking information in order to “release” government stimulus funds or consolidate debt. Others attempt to sell you in-demand medical supplies at a discount, such as surgical masks, or fake health insurance.

Sometimes the senders will “spoof” a government or business phone number, so it appears to come from an official entity. Just remember that governments and banks will never contact you directly, asking for personal information or money.

Phishing Calls

With voice-over-internet technology making robocalls cheap and easy, the scammers can’t help but inundate us with new topical scams. We’ve seen reports of robocalls offering phony medical treatments or free test kits if you respond with your information. Others like

charity requests, such as one that appears to come from the World Health Organization, asking for a donation to an emergency relief fund.

How to Stay Safe

Scammers always try to take advantage of uncertainty and big news events that capture our attention. Here’s how to stay safe:

Be hyperaware when receiving any type of call or message

Always be suspicious of unsolicited calls, texts, social media messages, and e-mails. If you question the identity of the person, it is best not to interact at all. If a suspicious message appears to come from a friend, call them directly to see if their phone was hacked. Do not click on links or open attachments from anyone unless you’re sure the communication is authentic.

Never share your personal or financial data

Never give your personal and financial information over the phone or via text. If you are pressured to do so, go directly to the source.  Call the supposed institution asking for your information directly.

Be careful about which apps you download

Only download apps from reputable app stores and check the app’s reviews before purchasing.

Look into a spam blocker

Many phone carriers offer a service or app that helps identify and filter out spam calls. This can help greatly minimize those phishing calls.

Practice safe surfing & shopping
When surfing or shopping on your mobile device, go directly to the legitimate website or reputable app instead of clicking on links in messages. You can also avoid risky websites by having the Safe Web (safe browsing tool) turned on in McAfee Mobile Security.

Keep your devices secure and protected

Keep your device protected with mobile security software. Products like McAfee Mobile Security perform regular scans to help protect you from malware and ensure that your apps are safe.


About the Author

Natalie Maxfield

Natalie Maxfield has over twenty years in the technology sector with a focus in mobile security over the last decade. She is passionate about our mission to protect consumers in their everyday digital lives. As a busy working mom, she knows from experience that people rely on their mobile device more than ever to simply ...

Read more posts from Natalie Maxfield

  1. Hello, I have received a threatening email – it’s a scam & I understand it’s known as the Bitcoin Scam 2020. Despite having McAfee Live Save on my laptop (& now on my iPhone) how did this email get through to my personal email account. It also states ‘it knows my password’ the password is an old one I used to use. Please can you advise? Many thanks

  2. I got one the other day that wanted a ransom of $2000 in bitcoin or they would release supposedly sensitive videos of me. The email an old password of mine I no longer use and said it got them off a webcam of mine. Funny thing I never installed a webcam on my computer. Did some research on this scam on YouTube and it said it was phony and don’t reply. I also get phishing scams from PayPal and Apple too. Disgusting individuals all of them.

  3. I am getting numerous e-mails that purport that my McAfee subscription needs to be renewed, however, I always keep it current and know that it is a scam. Does McAfee have a reporting site I can forward these scam e-mails to for your subsequent action? Thank you!

  4. i keep getting emails on my phone and pop-ups on my lap-top, that my subscription is about to expire. isn’t McAfee supposed to protect me from this?

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