Received an Email Offering Free COVID-19 Test? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Open It

The subject line in these emails is likely to be - Free COVID-19 testing for all residents of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad.

Have you received an e-mail offering you a free COVID-19 test? If you have, then here is why you should steer clear from it, in fact, even delete it.

Why Should You Not Open It?

In opening such malicious e-mails you could be putting your cyber profile under threat. You also open up your private and financial details to hackers.

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In) recently warned of a large-scale cyber attack against both individuals and businesses. Given that the entire world is gripped by the COVID-19 fear, attackers are using this time as bait to steal personal and financial information.

CERT-In is the nodal agency dealing with cybersecurity under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It has issued an advisory warning that potential phishing attacks could impersonate government agencies, departments and trade bodies that have been tasked to oversee the disbursement of government fiscal aid.

It has been advised by CERT-In that no e-mail from be opened.

Things You Ought to Know

Security measures to combat cyber-attacks at terminals. Picture Courtesy: Flickr.
Representational image. Picture Courtesy: Flickr.
  • Such e-mails lead you to fake websites.
  • These fake websites deceive you into downloading malicious files or entering personal and financial information.
  • According to the advisory, there are about 2 million e-mail ids that may be getting such malicious e-mails.
  • The subject line in these emails is likely to be – Free COVID-19 testing for all residents of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad.

How to Protect Yourself?

  • Cert-In has asked users to encrypt and protect their sensitive documents to avoid potential leakage. You can do this by installing good anti-virus tools and filtering services. Report any unusual activity or attack immediately to Cert-In.
  • Also, the government has issued warnings asking people not to open or click on attachments in an unsolicited email, SMS or messages.
  • In case the e-mail or SMS appears to be from a known source, be cautious while opening external links. If possible check with the sender.
  • Furthermore, any spelling error in the e-mail address, website, or an unfamiliar e-mail address is a cause for concern. Stay away from such e-mails.
  • Beware of e-mails which offer free COVID-19 testing, cashback offers, rewards, prizes, etc.

According to this report, COVID-19 related phishing campaigns have been immensely popular with cybercriminals across the world. Since the pandemic began in China, reports of phishing emails sent in the name of WHO, CDC, and other government agencies offering information, symptoms checks, free PPEs, and seeking donations have also multiplied.

You could report such e-mails or issues to Cert-In here.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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