Email scammers are taking advantage of our coronavirus fears

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On Sunday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. reached almost 550, with 22 deaths, according to CNBC. Getting accurate information about the disease and its progress is already hard enough, and it's not helped by Trump's apparent inability to grasp the scope of the situation or his insistence that it will all just "go away." And now, email scammers posing as health officials are running phishing schemes in an effort to capitalize on the increasing confusion.

Last month, the World Health Organization released an advisory cautioning people about some of the schemes. These scams have been identified by numerous security researchers, too, including those from Trustwave Holdings and Sophos.

The scammers are using a number of different tactics. Sophos, for example, found one that would take people to an exact copy of the WHO website by using the promise of "safety measures" against coronavirus as a lure. Once on the site, a pop-up would ask users to input their email passwords. Cybersecurity firm Check Point also reported a Japanese phishing scheme where scammers posed as welfare providers.

Although alarming and frustrating, scams like these aren't unique to coronavirus. Ron Culler, senior director of technology and solutions at ADT Cybersecurity, told Recode that emergencies "add a fear factor that acts as one more hook for hackers to get what they need."

“When fear is added to any targeted campaign — be it a legitimate or scam campaign — the effectiveness of that campaign is increased," Culler said.

Luckily, there are some easy tips that can help you avoid these types of phishing attempts. To start, organizations like WHO or the CDC will never ask for your information in order to access their websites or anything about coronavirus. No matter how real a website or email looks, requests for personal information should always make you pause.

In addition, WHO recommends verifying the sender's email address and checking the link before you click. When Trustwave Holdings dove into a phishing scheme, it found that one email was using a web page that doesn't even exist on the CDC's website.

Unfortunately, some people will always try to capitalize on the fear and confusion of others, and the coronavirus panic is no exception. But by staying vigilant and aware of the dangers out there you can keep your information safe. For more on how to protect yourself online, check out these tips.