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New Year’s Resolution: Avoid Phishing Scams!

It’s 2021, and you know what that means: new phishing scams!

Many phishing scams have a long shelf life, changing just enough to keep with the times. Look no further than a grift that is part of our pop-culture: The Nigerian Prince scam. Transitioning from letters to phone calls to emails over 40 years, this variation of an advance fee scam has maintained prominence for both its outrageous premise and surprising effectiveness—a Nigerian Prince will reward you from their royal treasury if you donate enough money to help them escape their country.

These scams often work best when preying on desperation, which is why they come during crises. Natural disasters and pandemics are a favorite, seemingly spawning scams that impersonate relief efforts before local and federal officials send a press release. But we don’t have to take it lying down.

The best way to fight back against fraudsters is to learn the common signs of scams and report suspicious activity to the government. Awareness of specific scams is even better, so it’s a good idea to bookmark trusted resources and sign up for data security newsletters from government agencies.

Be on the lookout for COVID-19 Vaccine Scams!

The Federal Trade Commission this week issued an infographic detailing the signs of COVID-19 vaccine phishing scams. While not the first coronavirus-related scams belched out during the COVID era, these come at a particularly vulnerable time as states are rolling out life-saving injections.

The FTC lists three things that healthcare agencies will never require of patients seeking a vaccine.

  • “You can’t pay to put your name on a list to get a vaccine. That’s a scam.”
  • “You can’t pay to get early access to the vaccine. That’s a scam.”
  • “Nobody legit will call about the vaccine and ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number. That’s a scam.”

As the agency notes, you should ignore any messages or phone calls that employ those tactics. The first sign should be familiar since it’s the same tactic as the Nigerian Prince scam and similar fee advance scams: Give the scammers money for an opportunity. In this case, it’s a chance to escape the long shadow of the pandemic.

Check out the infographic at Consumer.FTC.gov/Articles/Three-Ways-Avoid-covid-19-Vaccine-Scams-Infographic, and be sure to warn clients, friends, and family. We’ll eventually be on the other side of this pandemic, and we can make it there without falling victim to phishing scammers.

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