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:
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.
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.
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