Phishing for COVID-19

By Jeané Blunt. Scammers have been preying on public fears surrounding COVID-19 by launching phishing attacks disguised as helpful information or the latest tips. Some campuses, like UC Merced, have reported a spike in coronavirus related phishing attempts.

Most campuses have issued warnings. The FBI, Secret Service, and World Health Organization have issued warnings as well.

What Is Phishing?

According to, “Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords. The information is then used to access important accounts and can result in identity theft and financial loss.”

Learn to Spot Phishing

Many phishing emails are riddled with typos or bad grammar. Read carefully. In addition, a COVID-19 related phishing email

  • Might look like it’s from a legitimate organization (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the University of California, etc.)
  • Might offer health advice, list a treatment or cure, or give information about an outbreak in your area or workplace
  • Urge you to take immediate action, with phrases like, “Act Now!”
  • Solicit donations to bogus charities
  • Ask you for personal information in reference to your stimulus check

Do You Suspect Phishing?

If you suspect you have received a phishing email that appears to come from an individual or department on campus, you can pick up the phone and ask the sender to verify its legitimacy, or you can create a new email (not reply to the original) and ask the sender. With any suspected phishing email, you should report it to your information security office or IT help desk. Then delete the email and empty your recycle bin.

For more information about the current online COVID-19 scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.

Jeané Blunt is IT communications and UC FCC licensing coordinator at UC Office of the President.

Jeané Blunt is IT communications and UC FCC licensing coordinator at UC Office of the President.

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