Beware of these Pandemic Phishing Scams

These days, even though we are all, for the most part, stuck at home, trying to be safe from COVID-19, that doesn’t mean that we are safe from cybercrime. Cybercriminals continue to target victims, even in this environment, and many of these scams are related to COVID-19. This is pretty common when something like a crisis comes down, so you have to remain vigilant as you go through your daily life. Here are some of the things you should be looking for and being aware of:

phishing scamRelief Fund Scams

As we look towards our government officials for help, they have been sending out money to people who have lost their jobs or become impacted financially by the COVID-19 crisis. Criminals have started to create phishing scams that look identical to the correspondence that might come from the government. They do this to trick people into revealing their personal information. Currently, if you are in the UK, Australia, or the US, you are probably being targeted.

Infection Maps that are Malicious

Cybercriminals are also taking advantage of the public’s interest in COVID-19 infection maps. Organizations like Johns Hopkins are creating these maps, but cybercriminals are following close behind and releasing their own. All they have to do is set up their own websites, and then stick malware in them. They can do this for little to no money, and then they can make a huge profit thanks to ID theft and other dastardly deeds.

Impersonating Official Health Organizations

You also need to keep an eye out for cybercriminals who are impersonating official health organizations, including WHO – the World Health Organization, or the CDC – Centers for Disease Control. They are doing this by designing a number of different phishing scams. These started all the way back in February, and they are continuing to be sent. The criminals are setting up a sense of urgency, so that people are more apt to give up their information.

Scams with COVID-19 Testing Kits

There is also a lot of interest in COVID-19 testing kits, and as you might imagine…the bad guys are targeting these people, too. Not only are these scams spreading via email, according to the FCC, Federal Communications Commission, but also with robocalls, text smishing, and more. The FCC has even announced that it has found a big range of robocall scams that are associated with coronavirus, including things like debt consolidation, work at home opportunities, and even student loan repayment plans. There are also specific scams that are targeting small businesses.

Medical Supply Scams

Finally, we have medical supply scams. These are similar to the testing kit scams but the cybercriminals are using these medical supplies, like masks and gloves, as a lure to get people to give them money. There are more and more of these websites popping up with huge discounts on medical supplies. Many of these sites are offering limited-time sales and want Bitcoin for payment, which is a big sign that you could be getting scammed.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program and the home security expert for

Catfished Teen Murders Her Best Friend

A teenager in Alaska, Denali Brehmer, killed her best friend after a man she met on the internet offered her $9 million to commit the murder. Brehmer, who is 18-years old, killed her 19-year old friend, Cynthia Hoffman, by shooting her in the back of the head at the urging of Darin Schilmiller, 21.

According to authorities, Brehmer and Hoffman considered themselves to be best friends, so it is obvious money had to be the main motive as to why Brehmer killed her friend. She was arrested and has been charged with murder.

The district attorney’s office claims that Brehmer met Schillmiller online. He told her that he was a millionaire from Kansas and said that his name was “Tyler,” and they began an online relationship. In reality, he really is a 21-year old from Indiana and is far from being a millionaire. The two starting planning crimes together, with “Tyler” offering to give Brehmer money for these crimes, including asking her to “rape and murder” someone in Alaska. Brehmer chose her “best friend” as the victim, and then she recruited four other friends to help her do it. She promised them “substantial shares of money” for their assistance.

Brehmer and her friends made a plan to invite Hoffman on a hiking trip. While gone, they overtook her, bound her hands, mouth, and feet with duct tape, and then shot her in the head before leaving her body in the Eklunta River. Brehmer took video and photos, which she sent to Schilmiller via Snapchat, while the crime was occurring.

After they were done, they destroyed some of Hoffman’s belongings, and then texted her family to tell them that they had dropped her off at a local park.

When questioned by police, Brehmer confessed to murdering her friend, and the investigators also found texts that she sent to Schilmiller showing her sexually assaulting other teens.

For his part, Schilmiller admitted to lying about his identity to Brehmer and blackmailing her into the murder and sexual assaults. He told police that they had been planning Hoffman’s murder for approximately three weeks.

Hoffman’s family told authorities that she was likely chosen as a victim because she was a “trusting” person “whose learning disabilities put her at a younger developmental age.” Her father, Timothy, said “My daughter just wanted friends.” All of the people involved were recently indicted for first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and second degree murder. In the state of Alaska, where they are charged, each count carries a prison sentence of up to 99 years.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.