The White House is warning the public to ignore rumors of a national quarantine for the novel coronavirus, which were circulated by erroneous text messages.
“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE,” according to a March 15 tweet posted on the Twitter page of the National Security Council. “There is no national lockdown.”
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told defense reporters Monday that he “was not familiar” with any plans of using the U.S. military to enforce a national quarantine to contain the spread of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
“I think the White House put out a statement that that was untrue and is not something that is under consideration at this time,” he said.
Social media has been flooded with virus-related rumors, many of which are being perpetrated by cybercriminals, according to U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.
CID officials are warning the Army community to be aware of “phishing campaigns that prey on would-be victims’ fear, while others capitalize on the opportunity created by hot topics in the news cycle,” according to a recent CID news release.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents cybercriminals with a way to combine both into a dangerous one-two punch,” the release states.
Cybercriminals recently hacked the COVID-19 interactive map created by Johns Hopkins University, according to the release. “The hackers are selling copies of the interactive map as a malware tool used to steal passwords and user data,” it added.
CID officials recommend individuals avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails, instant messages or text messages related to information on COVID-19.
One example came in an email with the subject line “Singapore Specialists: Coronavirus Safety Measures,” according to a story on Wired.com.
The email reads: “Dear Sir, Go through the attached document on safety measures regarding the spreading of corona virus. This little measure can save you,” according to the story.
The attached link is labeled “Safety Measures.pdf.”
CID officials put out a list of websites that have recently shown signs of malicious behavior detected by anti-virus software:
CID officials are reminding people to be alert and suspicious and take extra steps to verify the source before releasing any personal or financial information.
Cybercriminals may use a variety of approaches, such as claiming to represent the health department and offering vaccination or other testing against COVID-19, according to the release.
“The health department will not do this,” the release states. “This is a dangerous scam. If this happens, call your local police department immediately.”
The Federal Trade Commission has also identified scams that involve emails “claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus,” according to the FTC website.
Any online offers for COVID-19 vaccines should be ignored, according to the FTC.
“There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores,” it states.
Other hoax tactics will sound silly to most people, but the CID advises caution if an individual claiming to be from computer support “tells you your computer is infected with corona virus and offers to repair it.”
“Your computer cannot be infected by corona virus,” the CID release states.
“Individuals should be suspicious of anyone who approaches or initiates contact regarding coronavirus; anyone not known, or with whom conversation was not initiated, who offers advice on prevention, protection or recovery — especially if they ask for money,” it adds.