Apparently messing with freshly vaccinated people isn't off limits for scammers, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning that fake vaccine surveys have been spotted trying to steal your personal information.
Scams have become a consistent problem online in recent years, and it's only getting worse. Between company-wide security breaches to individual hacks, it seems almost impossible to avoid the nefarious behavior of these cyber criminals.
Now, this new scam is poised to take advantage of people fresh off a pandemic-saving shot through convenient surveys that offer a free reward for handing over your personal information.
FTC Warns of Vaccine Survey Scam
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the FTC drew attention to a new scam that poses a threat to your online privacy. Disguised as a survey sent to those who just received one of the many COVID-19 vaccinations, this scam sounds like your run of the mill phishing attempt.
“People across the country are reporting getting emails and texts out of the blue, asking them to complete a limited-time survey about the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine,” explains the FTC. “And no doubt, there may be one for Johnson & Johnson, too. In exchange, people are offered a free reward, but asked to pay shipping fees.”
The shipping fees is where they get you. Naturally, there is no reward, nor a legitimate survey to gauge your reaction to the vaccine. Instead, the information you input into the survey will be used to harvest your personal data and, if you get all the way to the shipping fees part, your credit card number, and that's where things can get pretty dicey.
Scams have been part of the online experience for a while now, but the coronavirus pandemic has made things considerably worse. Given the swaths of misinformation flying around, scammers have all chaos and distrust they need to trick people into giving up their personal information and, subsequently, their money.
In fact, the City of London Police reported that more than 6,000 cases of coronavirus-related fraud have occurred, with a whopping £34.5 million being lost as a result.
“The past year has been incredibly challenging for every single one of us,” said Ian Dyson, commissioner of the City of London Police. “Sadly, we have seen devious criminals taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic as a means to commit fraud, often honing in on people’s anxieties and the changes that have occurred to their daily lives.”
Unfortunately, chaotic times like these are the perfect time for cyber criminals, and no tragedy is sad enough to deter them from trying to make a quick buck at your expense. Fortunately, there are a few ways to protect yourself.
How to Protect Yourself Online
When it comes to phishing scams like this, the best thing you can do is stay vigilant. In most cases, these fake surveys, websites, and other phishing tools have some clear indicators that they can't be trusted.
For one, typos run rampant on these sites, so keep an eye out for misspelled or oddly worded sentences. Another good tip is to always check the the URL to make sure you aren't clicking on anything that looks questionable. Finally, a good antivirus software can detect phishing attempts, keeping you safe no matter where you are on the web.
If you're looking to protect your privacy online in other ways, there are plenty of resources available to you. From password managers that keep your credentials secure to VPNs that hide your internet activity from potential cyber criminals, protecting your privacy online doesn't have to be a massive chore.