During a pandemic, criminals look to make a profit by using fear to their advantage.

Keep your personal information safe and avoid paying for a bogus COVID-19 test or treatment by using the following safety tips.

Click with caution

You’ve heard of fishing, but have you heard of phishing? While the first activity is enjoyed in the great outdoors, the second takes place online.

Cyber criminals, posing as a reputable organization, send phishing emails or texts containing malware in an attempt to “phish” for someone’s personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.

Scammers sometimes harness the power of news to entice people into clicking on a malicious link. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you should be on the lookout for fraudulent emails claiming to be from a public health agency, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

To protect yourself from phishing, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends not clicking on links from sources you don’t know since they could download viruses onto your device.

Stay in-the-know and safeguard your information by visiting the CDC or WHO websites directly for the most up-to-date information on the virus.

Question before purchasing

Currently, there are no vaccines, medications, supplements or ointments available to treat COVID-19, but there are retailers pitching bogus treatments.

The FTC sent warning letters to seven sellers of scam treatments last month. All the companies made changes to their ads to remove unsupported claims, but other fishy scammers exist.

Don’t fall for a COVID-19 treatment scheme online, over the phone or at home. To keep your personal information safe and avoid spending money on fake goods, you should:

  • Steer clear of online ads claiming to cure COVID-19
  • Hang up on robocalls
  • Ignore door-to-door solicitors peddling COVID-19 tests or prescriptions

Watch out for health care scams

Criminals also look to use the health care system to their advantage during a pandemic.

Kerry Kremke, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s (BCBSNE) chief security and privacy officer, said security and privacy are built into the systems and processes BCBSNE uses daily.

“By default, only the right people have access to the right information at the right time to serve our members,” Kremke said.

BCBSNE members can take steps to protect themselves, too. Do not provide your member ID number or bank account information to an unknown caller. If BCBSNE calls you, the employee will identify themselves and share why they are calling. BCBSNE also sends communications via mail and updates its official website regularly.

Additionally, members should monitor their explanation of benefits (EOB) statement for unexplained or unauthorized laboratory tests or prescriptions.

COVID-19 note from BCBSNE: We are here to make sure members are cared for. View the latest at NebraskaBlue.com/Coronavirus.