Criminals are always on the lookout for finding new ways to scam people – and now they are trying to exploit the coronavirus scare that has taken over the world lately. With coronavirus cases in the US in the thousands, and expected to rise significantly, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The deadly strain of the coronavirus COVID-19 is likely to continue spreading around the globe, as well as all the scams and misinformation that comes with it.

Three weeks ago, a coronavirus email hoax led to violent protests in Ukraine. The false information that claimed five people infected with SARS-CoV-2 have just entered the former Soviet Union country made protesters attack with bricks a bus full of coronavirus evacuees and blocked roads limiting the access to medical facilities. The information supposedly came from outside Ukraine in the form of an email, and the fake news was so loudly spread that the country’s president had to address the misinformation. He issued an official statement on Facebook confirming that all the evacuees were healthy, and they needed to be quarantined for two weeks out of extra caution because of recent travel.

False information isn’t the only side effect that accompanies the coronavirus scare. The European Center Bank (ECB) issued a statement requesting institutions to be ready to deal with increased cyber-security related fraud, aimed at both customers and institutions. The scams have started appearing in the form of emails containing malicious files. The same statement encourages organizations to also prepare for an increase in cyber-attacks, and higher reliance on remote banking services as more and more people are expected to remain on lockdown during the peak times of the outbreak.

WHO also issued a statement saying that criminals are disguising themselves as WHO and are aiming to steal money or sensitive information. The organization strongly advises everyone to always verify authenticity before starting a conversation every time they are contacted by a person or organization that appears to be from WHO. The health organization confirms that such scam practices do not only come via email but by other means of communication such as phone calls, text messages, and even fax messages.

The coronavirus outbreak is here to stay, and it is officially a pandemic. Criminals will continue looking for ways to capitalize on people’s panic and fear surrounding the deadly strain of the coronavirus by launching sophisticated cyber attacks. If you practice good password hygiene, you think twice before opening emails from people you do not recognize, and you have proper anti-virus software support that helps you remain alert and protected, you most likely already are on the safe side.

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