Art depicting online scams. Scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to steal information, according to a March 13 email from Stony Brook University’s Division of Information Technology. PUBLIC DOMAIN

Scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to steal information, according to a March 13 email from Stony Brook University’s Division of Information Technology.

More than 14 million people in the U.S. fell victim to online scams in 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute, with millennials most likely to fall victim to online scams. 

Scammers typically use scare tactics to steal personal information, according to the email. Norton, a computer security company, said scammers pretend to be real organizations and send files claiming to have COVID-19 statistics. The files then install malware on to the computer and can steal personal information and financial data. 

“There are no doubt going to be many more [scams],” Matt Nappi, chief information security officer at Stony Brook, wrote in the email. He pointed to the Department of Homeland Security’s webpage posted on March 6 in response to COVID-19 scams. The webpage said to exercise caution with any email with COVID-19 in the subject line, attachment or hyperlink. 

The Stony Brook email also warned the campus community about the spread of fake news. It points to a fake website imitating the live map for Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins University as an example. NewsGuard, a browser extension that rates website trustworthiness, found 106 websites posting fake and misleading COVID-19 content. 

The email reminded students that the Internal Revenue System will never contact by phone, email or text, and to file taxes early to limit the time frame scammers can file on their behalf.

 

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