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According to a report by the Data Security Council of India and PayPal, July 2020 saw 1.49 billion UPI transactions worth $41 billion with more and more people resorting to digital payments due to the Coronavirus crisis. However, it also revealed a surge in online frauds such as phishing scams, charity scams, fake websites, and mobile apps among others that have exposed the personal data of millions of consumers to malware.

As the government rolls out the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public, fraudsters have also geared up their game with a vaccination phishing scam that could compromise sensitive financial information of the victims. Let us know more about it as well as how to avoid the COVID-19 phishing scam.

How it works

Several senior citizens including others received calls in early January asking them for their bank account and Aadhar details. The hackers posed as representatives from the Drug Authority of India requesting them to register for the Coronavirus vaccine by making an online payment. Once the victim shares the OTP for authentication, money gets transferred from his or her Aadhar linked bank account.

Alternatively, in a vaccination phishing scam, you may be asked for personal information over email on the pretext of registering you for the vaccine in advance. You might also receive a phishing link as a text message or on social media sites promising payment and registration to get the Corona vaccine shot on a priority basis. All of these fall in the category of cybercrimes that have become rampant as the vaccination drive gets underway.

How to avoid COVID-19 phishing scam

It is important that you are aware of such phishing scams and can spot them early to protect yourself from getting duped. Here are a few ways to do so:

1. As a general rule, resist the temptation of opening any link or attachment in your email from an unknown or unverified source. Failure in doing so could lead to a virus being downloaded on your computer. Move the cursor over the link without clicking to see the address.

2. Be on the lookout for unsolicited emails in your inbox that promise a cure, medicine, vaccine, or even early vaccination for COVID-19. No reliable government or private organization would ask you for your bank details for medical purposes. It is likely a vaccination phishing scam.

3. Make sure to cross-check the website of any company or charitable organization or the email of an individual who tries to contact you offering any products or services to help you combat COVID-19. Most often, the email addresses and websites will only be slightly different from that of the legitimate organizations so that it is easier for you to assume they are trustworthy.

4. Install Antivirus software from a reputed company on your computer and ensure that your anti-malware system is updated and operational. This could help you detect any virus or bot that has been downloaded on your system by default and protect you against it.

5. Ignore, delete and mark as spam any suspicious emails that promise a path-breaking treatment or new vaccine. Any such information would be shared by the government publicly, rather than through private emails to individuals asking for money.

6. Beware of donation requests from small businesses, NGOs, or crowdfunding sites concerning Coronavirus especially if they are eager for you to send money promptly online by using net banking or other digital payment methods.

The key to steer clear of phishing scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine is to be proactive and alert. If you receive a mail that you suspect is fake, you can also type it in your search engine to know if others have also reported it. Additionally, you can add an extra layer of security to your email with 2 step verification to ensure protection. Lastly, if you believe that you have been approached by a scammer with a fraudulent email or message, spread the word among your social circle to increase their awareness.

All the measures mentioned above should be sufficient for you to navigate your way through the vaccination phishing scam. However, it is equally important to manage your finances judiciously, even as you stay vigilant and take necessary steps to avoid COVID-19 phishing scam.

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