Increased virus transmission leads to rise in misinformation
Recent numbers indicate that the number of known coronavirus cases in the United States passed 35,000. As cases continue to rise, misinformation is accompanying it.
In the US, rumors that President Donald Trump will impose a two-week nationwide shutdown are urging people to stock up on groceries and household items.
The US National Security Council, released a tweet on their official account that the rumors are “absolutely false and started by those wanting to cause fear and confusion in our country,” urging Americans to adhere to trusted sources such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the government website coronavirus.gov and state and local officials.
Other rumors, including the possibility of getting tested for the virus by donating blood or warning people that mosquitoes are carriers, abound. Others include home remedies on how to prevent or cure the virus, including claims about the effectiveness of bananas or even drinking copious amounts of water.
Scammers take notice
As confusion and anxiety take hold, scammers are using it as a platform to swindle money out of people.
As a part of an economic relief package, lawmakers are currently debating over the specifics of a $1.8 trillion stimulus package which proposes that checks for $1,200 be disbursed to Americans to help them weather the uncertainty and make up for lost wages. Crucially, the plan is not finalized.
Scammers are, however, attempting to have Americans divulge personal information, such as bank details. Other scams include work-at-home opportunities for companies like Amazon, calls to invest in the latest company that will find a cure for the virus and fake charities.
“This virus is a perfect storm, at an unprecedented scale,” said Dov Lerner, a researcher from cybersecurity threat intelligence company, Sixgill. “It is something that we would fully expect scammers to pounce on.”
Consider the source
A 2018 study conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that false news tends to spread faster than true information, because false stories are more often sensationalized and geared toward drawing on people’s emotions.
Instead of adhering to everything you read out of fear that attempts to manipulate, experts say it is important to critically evaluate the information source. Think about where the news originates from. Confirm that it is from a legitimate and authoritative source, and try to verify the information you receive.
According to Dr. Ruth Parker, a physician at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia: “It’s a scary time, [but] we don’t want to add fuel to the fire. Good information won’t cure us, but it will help to calm us.”
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