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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Coronavirus

New cyber scam poses as CDC to sell fake cures for COVID-19


During "desperate circumstances" such as the coronavirus pandemic, assistant professor in the Department of Information and Logistics Technology Chris Bronk said that people are less cautious regarding cyber scams. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

During “desperate circumstances” such as the coronavirus pandemic, assistant professor in the Department of Information and Logistics Technology Chris Bronk said people are less cautious regarding cyber scams. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

UH’s Department of Information and Logistics is warning students to be on the lookout for a new cyber scam that poses to be the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to sell fake cures for COVID-19.

“Now that life is basically entirely online, that opens up things for all sorts of new cyber scams,” said assistant professor in the Department of Information and Logistics Technology Chris Bronk.

Emails sent by the scammers attempt to convince people to buy fake test kits, vaccines and other drugs that claim to cure COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. They can also have links that when clicked will infect the computer allowing access to personal information.

Bronk has not encountered any scams directly affecting UH students or professors that involve COVID-19. However, he said that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

He encourages students to be suspicious, and if there is no “uh.edu” at the end of the email address then chances are it didn’t come from the University.

Mary Dickerson, UH’s chief information security officer, said to be mindful that the CDC doesn’t send direct emails to the general population, but issues press releases to media outlets.

“Criminals are trying to take advantage of people,” said Mary Dickerson, UH’s chief information security officer. “In some cases, they are trying to trick people into sending the criminals money to purchase fake products.”

Dickerson said people are more likely to fall for scams because many routines are disrupted.

In addition to possible COVID-19-related cyber scams, throughout the semester students can receive other types of phishing messages such as an “offer” for a campus job, Dickerson said.

“Aside from general phishing messages, the most common reports we get are from students who have received an email ‘offer’ for part-time work — but it is actually a fraud,” Dickerson said.

To prevent falling for a cyber scam, Dickerson said to ask good questions, be skeptical and pay attention to details. If an email claims to have a set of facts or breaking news that hasn’t been already reported on by a credible news outlet, it is most likely not true.

“Why did you get the email about a COVID-19 test?” Dickerson said for students to ask themselves when evaluating a possible COVID-19 cyber scam. “How did they decide out of everyone in Houston that they should let you know about this great opportunity?”

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