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Beware the Digital Pandemic

Covid-19 has been a tragic development for every community throughout this country and around the world. People are not just worried about their health, but a host of other issues, such as unemployment, welfare benefits, and stimulus packages. Another sinister development has been the dramatic rise in cyber-crime aimed at exploiting people’s genuine concerns.

Last spring, a torrent of emails were circulated leading the unaware to fake websites claiming to sell personal protective equipment. Throughout 2020, these diversified, many purporting to be from government departments offering financial help and advice. The latest raft have been persuading people to purchase fake vaccinations.

It is easy to why crooks use emails to pursue their wicked ways. A recent survey by I.T. recycling company ‘Computer Disposals’ found just 5% of the public can reliably differentiate between a genuine email and a scam. Fake websites can be equally hard to distinguish, with around a quarter of the 1,200 COVID-related domains registered every day being malicious or suspect.

How to avoid these scams? It is very unwise to take such incoming emails at face value. Do not trust any claiming to arrange a COVID vaccine for a fee. Only the NHS has the vaccine, and it will never charge. Equally, the NHS does not send out emails asking for donations.

Treat any email trying to create urgency around Covid or asking for personal information with utmost caution. Never click links in an email if you are unsure of its origin.

Do not trust shortened Covid website addresses. Similarly, a site is not safe just because it has the 'safe' padlock symbol or uses SSL (https), both of which can be fake.

Stay safe – be as aware of the digital risks as you are of Covid itself.

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