How to protect yourself from coronavirus-related SMS spam

Spammers are sending text messages with deceptive links designed to exploit interest and fear around COVID-19, says AdaptiveMobile Security.

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Cybercriminals have been employing a variety of tricks to try to ensnare people concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations and individuals have to be on guard for coronavirus-related phishing emails, phony websites, and malicious apps. Now, a new campaign spotted by security provider AdaptiveMobile Security is using text messaging to fool people into clicking on malicious links.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium) 

In a report released Wednesday, AdaptiveMobile Security illustrates the expansion of SMS spam campaigns related to COVID-19 across the US and Canada. Such campaigns exploit the fear around the pandemic in an attempt to defraud vulnerable mobile phone subscribers.

In both the US and Canada, the number of attacks reported to the security firm have lessened since the start of May but were quite active during all of April. The data for the US shows different states targeted from one day to the next. Similarly, the data for Canada shows a change in which provinces received these attacks on a day-to-day basis.

In one of the SMS spam campaigns, the spammer tells the recipient that his coronavirus stimulus payment is waiting for his acceptance, which must be given by a specific date. The link included in the message instead directs the person to a gift card promotion.

In another campaign, the recipient gets a text message with a link to a website purportedly set up for applying for coronavirus stimulus checks. Clicking on the link displays a form promising information on the stimulus plan. Users are prompted to enter their name, marital status, mailing address, and email address with a response that more information will be emailed to them.

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AdaptiveMobile Security

AdaptiveMobile Security offers a few pieces of advice for people who receive these types of messages.

"Our advice to consumers is to be constantly vigilant," AdaptiveMobile Security said in its report. "Do not click through on any links in SMS messages that you feel may be suspicious or respond to unsolicited messages. In the US, you can report these spam messages to your carrier by forwarding the message to the phone number 7726. This helps the carrier (and us) identify and block more of these types of messages in the future."

Further, mobile phone users should avoid clicking on links in unsolicited text messages about the coronavirus.

"For correct COVID-19 information, our recommendation is to rely on official sources such as the WHO or your country's official government websites for medical information, COVID-19 financial support, and health and travel advisories," AdaptiveMobile Security said. "Like a pandemic, these types of messages often target and hurt the most vulnerable people in our society."

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