Text scams exploiting coronavirus fears see sharp rise in South Korea

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What just happened? After killing nearly 2,000 people, the novel coronavirus has much of the world concerned, and that’s led to scammers exploiting people’s fears. The problem is especially bad in South Korea, which has seen a huge rise in scam text messages, known as smishing, that use false information about the virus.

In a joint statement (via ZDNet) from South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT, police, and financial regulator, it’s revealed that as of February 15, 9,688 smishing texts had been sent containing misinformation about the novel coronavirus.

The texts usually claim to provide free masks or falsely claim to be from companies that have experienced delays in deliveries due to the virus. These messages aim to extract the recipients’ private information. There were also 165 phone calls from fake numbers, claiming to be from health authorities trying to scam people out of money and information.

One scammer rang a restaurant claiming they had the novel coronavirus and had recently eaten at the establishment. The person demanded money or they would inform the authorities.

This isn’t the first time that scammers have used coronavirus fears to their advantage. We recently heard of a campaign that spreads malware via emails claiming to offer information on how to protect against the virus.

From the canceling of MWC, to delayed products, to a predicted fall in smartphone shipments and Nvidia’s earnings, the tech industry is being disrupted by the novel coronavirus and the protective measures that have been implemented.

There’s a lot of misinformation about the novel coronavirus. But if you’re worried about packages sent from China carrying the virus, you’ve got little to fear. You can also check out this map, which tracks cases, deaths, and recoveries.

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