The Federal Trade Commission is warning that there’s another new coronavirus phishing scam. This time, identity thieves are sending emails that appear to come from FTC Chair Lina Khan.
“The email says the FTC wants to send you coronavirus relief funds and tells you to send some personal information, like your name, address, and date of birth,” the FTC warns. “The FTC is not distributing coronavirus economic stimulus or relief money to people. The email is a scam. Don’t reply.”
What should I do if I suspect an email is a phishing scam?
The FTC says that you should never interact with unsolicited emails that ask you to provide private information. Phishing emails tend to rely on three basic mechanisms to collect your information:
- Direct responses, either in an email or phone call
- Attachments that install malware
- Links to fake websites or malware
Remember, malware can record what you type, provide remote access to your device, or even lock your device down as part of a ransomware scam. Since scammers can send emails that appear to come from legitimate sources (like the FTC), you should never reflexively click attachments or embedded links.
Next, the FTC says that you should report the phishing scam by following these steps:
- Report the phishing email to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov
- Forward [the phishing email] to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at email@example.com
Why does it feel like there’s a new phishing scam every week?
Identity thieves are always looking for new ways to trick you. That’s why phishing scams take so many forms: letters, phone calls, social media private messages, and, of course, emails—each featuring myriad variations. When it comes to phishing emails, fraudsters know that the size of the potential audience and immediacy of delivery can—and does—yield results.
As with any large audience, there’s a constellation of experience regarding their back catalogue of scams. While older scams can still work by relying on urgency, fear, and FOMO, identity thieves are constantly crafting new schemes to capitalize on current events.
Natural disasters and government-issued payments are two frequently iterated topics, because they prey on vulnerable people. Scams involving both can be particularly effective and devastating, which is why the FTC and IRS want tax professionals to warn their clients about new threats.