CES advises students to beware of COVID-19 scams

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Health risks aren’t the only dangers present with the spread of COVID-19; online scams can also pose a serious threat. BYU University Communications sent out an email Friday afternoon warning the campus community of phishing emails, social media postings and text messages associated with coronavirus.

“Amid concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Church Educational System (CES) Operations Center is advising the campus community to beware of scams and malware being circulated via email and social media,” the email reads.

The scams usually involve impersonation of health officials or other official communication to trick users into giving up personal information, according to the email.

“Cybercriminals are spreading links to malicious sites disguised as reliable COVID-19 maps such as the one at Johns Hopkins University to infect computers with malware. Links to these sites are being circulated either on social media or through misleading emails,” the email states.

The email also mentions reports of students receiving text messages about COVID-19 from false sources that claim to be the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is a hoax.

“In a real notification, the Utah County Health Department would attempt to first call an individual. If the individual can’t be reached by phone, the health department would send an email with an official letter,” reads a statement on the BYU website.

CES further encourages members of the campus community to visit coronavirus.utah.gov for factual information and updates. Individuals concerned they might have COVID-19 should call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 800-456-7707.

The email also included a section with advice from The US Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which encourages individuals to, “exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment or hyperlink and to be wary of social media pleas, texts or calls related to COVID-19.”

CISA further encourages individuals to remain vigilant and take the following precautions.

  • Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments.
  • Use trusted sources — such as legitimate, government websites — for up-to-date, fact-based information about COVID-19.
  • Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
  • Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on Charity Scams for more information.
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