A survey by the British communications regulator, Ofcom, helps to highlight the dangers posed by misinformation that is now spreading online. Many oOnline sources have raised concerns for self-isolated Internet users – due to the significant increase in both the amount of fake news related to coronaviruses currently circulating and the increase in scams aimed at taking advantage of vulnerable and concerned citizens. We review Ofcom's results and give you some tips for staying safe online while locked out.
Fake news about coronaviruses sweeps across the UK
The British regulator, Ofcom, has published a report which indicates that the general public is ill-informed about the coronavirus. According to the UK regulator, British citizens have been exposed to false information about Covid-19 which could potentially cause confusion and harm.
Following an investigation by the regulator over the past two weeks, Ofcom has released a report that half of British adults are currently ill-informed about various aspects of the deadly virus.
Among those surveyed, 35% believed that the online information that drinking more water could eliminate the infection. 24% of the British public had seen false information about the gargling of salt water to help fight the virus. In addition, 24% of UK citizens had come across online reports that avoiding cold food could help prevent catching the virus.
Having trouble saying what's wrong and what's not? You are not alone, because more than half of 18-24 year olds fight against disinformation
These statistics reveal the viral way in which false information about Covid-19 is currently spread online and remind that all concerned citizens should be extremely careful about where they get advice. The best advice? Only seek medical information and advice from official government sources and through official channels providing legitimate and good medical advice.
Ofcom's survey reveals good news is limited. About 55% of Britons claim that they deliberately ignore false information during online tours. Of these people, about 15% turn to fact-checking sources, such as the BBC website, to verify the claims they see. Another 14% turn to family and friends to verify any false claims.
However, 52% of citizens aged 18 to 24 admitted to having a hard time differentiating false advice from real news on the virus. This reminds us that citizens who use the Internet to search for information as their primary source should be careful to recheck any information they read online or that is passed on to them by friends or family.
Coronavirus scams on the rise
In addition to false information and advice regarding Covid-19, British police are warning that online scams have exploded 400% due to the virus. According to authorities, there has been a dramatic increase in targeted phishing emails and text messages that use Covid-19 as a means to induce victims to part with their sensitive personal information.
One of these scams involves a HMRC text message offering a one-time crisis payment to help cope with the loss of income caused by self-isolation. This SMS phishing campaign is designed to entice people to give their financial information to fraudsters, who will then use that information to debit their accounts.
Another fraudulent text which seems to come from the government asks the beneficiary to pay a fine of £ 35 after being caught leaving the house 3 times. This scam is, once again, designed to get victims of their payment information – allowing the scammer to defraud the card.
In addition, cybersecurity experts warn that there has been an explosion of fake websites claiming to sell personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves. These websites appear to be selling real protective gear, but in reality, they are shell websites owned by criminals. These phishing websites are designed to mislead people about both their personally identifiable information and their financial data.
How to avoid coronavirus scams?
The British government has publicly stated to all British citizens that it will not contact them to ask for their financial information, even if they expect to receive an allowance call.
Do not give out your financial information or click on suspicious links, and only stick to official websites
All Internet users must remain vigilant to ensure that they are not the victims of a fraudulent website, email, phone call or SMS. Any unsolicited message that arrives in your inbox should be treated with extreme caution. If the message asks you to provide personal information, it's an obvious warning sign – and if it takes advantage of your emotions to try to make you act quickly, it should sound instantly.
If a message or an email contains links, it is better to ignore them. They could redirect you to a malicious website that would make you infected with malware. And, if you see an agreement that sounds too good to be true, it's likely that you received an advertisement for a fake agreement or came across a fake website advertising products that don't actually exist.
The best thing you can do is stick to the official website portals for recognized retail outlets only, as this will assure you that you will not be a victim of the multitude of online scams that are circulating today. If you come across a website that worries you, you can use our Covid-19 scam website verification tool to see if the website has ever been reported as malicious.
VPNOnlineFree Coronavirus Scam Site Checker
Our research center represents the largest repository of data related to malicious activities surrounding the pandemic on the Web. In partnership with WHOISID and VirusTotal, we have identified and analyzed more than a quarter of a million domains and are opening this data to the research community while providing a simple tool for the public to access it.
However, please keep in mind that no tool can claim to be 100% foolproof. So if you come across a website that looks suspicious, we recommend that you avoid it and stick to officially recognized outlets.