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I.S. Department Blog

City of Bothell Information Services Blog sharing technical tips and tricks.

Apr 22

Tips to avoid COVID-19 or Coronavirus scams!

Posted on April 22, 2020 at 12:15 PM by Brian Thai

COVID-19 Scams and How to Avoid Them! 

 

With the overwhelming influx of media and news coverage surrounding the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, an existing danger has also become more prominent. A worldwide phenomenon such as a pandemic brings forth more phishing attacks that look to exploit public fears and those seeking more information on COVID-19.  

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack in which cybercriminals use emails or even text messages to trick you into giving them your personal data. Common data they try to obtain can be passwords, social security numbers, account numbers, and more. They disguise emails claiming to be from a legitimate organization or source 

Phishing attacks always look to incite an emotion that causes us to act faster or think less about our actions at that moment in time. COVID-19 is a very emotional topic right now and criminals know this. They hope that the average person will click that link or reply to a message if they use that lure. 

According to Google’s Email Security team, they block over 100 million phishing emails each day and roughly 18 million of those are related to COVID-19! 

 

How do I spot a COVID-19 phishing email?  

Cybercriminals will often target organizations that are well-known. Some examples of organizations that will be impersonated are: the CDC, the WHO, local health organizations (King County Public Health, Snohomish County Public Health, etc.) and more.  

The emails will mostly look legitimate, but have some glaring red-flags. 

Here are some examples: 

phishing email COVID-19_1

phishing email COVID-19_2

In both of these examples, the phishers claim to be medical experts, they claim to offer “advice” to safety measures, and they want you to click on their link.  

 

 

How do I avoid these scams? 

Here are some great tips from Norton Antivirus on how to avoid these Coronavirus scams. 

 

  • Beware of online requests for personal information. A coronavirus-themed email that seeks personal information like your Social Security number or login information is a phishing scam. Legitimate government agencies won’t ask for that information. Never respond to the email with your personal data. 

  • Check the email address or link. You can inspect a link by hovering your mouse button over the URL to see where it leads. Sometimes, it’s obvious the web address is not legitimate. But keep in mind phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Delete the email. 

  • Watch for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors, it’s likely a sign you’ve received a phishing email. Delete it. 

  • Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Greetings like “Dear sir or madam” signal an email is not legitimate. 

  • Avoid emails that insist you act now. Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or demand immediate action. The goal is to get you to click on a link and provide personal information — right now. Instead, delete the message. 

  • Check the trusted website first. If you receive an email from the CDC or local agencies, but are unsure whether they are legitimate, go to those organizations’ trusted and main websites first to find related information.  

 

Below is a link (safe and legitimate to click!) to a great video covering more information regarding phishing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7zNlEMDmI4&feature=emb_title 

Dec 16

July 2019 - Bothell revamps utility billing process for customers, offers online payments

Posted on December 16, 2019 at 4:57 PM by Michele Woodhouse

A years-long process to bring Bothell’s utility operations up to speed with modern best practices was completed on July 29. The city of Bothell is now taking the final steps to implement its utility billing system update that has been in the works for several years.

The new billing system now offers online payments, account histories and viewable past bills. More payment options will be available such as e-checks and American Express as well as the option to sign up for a recurring payment schedule.

“Online payments, that’s answering the biggest ask from our customers, the ability to be able to view information online, its nice to be able to provide information to our customers at a glance,” Bickel said. “Plus paper free (billing options), I like the idea of not having to print the bill.”

He also noted that the city will be using a new meter-reading system that will help complete certain processes in hours when they have historically taken days.

“The reading system is much more efficient, we took this as an opportunity to align ourselves to current industry best practices,” he said.

On July 23, the system was frozen and the data was taken and converted for future use with the new billing processes. On July 29, the new system will be up and running.

Bickel said the city plans to inform all customers of the cities utilities of the new changes and share educational information they need to stay up to date with the new system. The city will mail out everyone’s new account numbers and the steps to take depending on what form of payment they prefer to make. A second mailing will come with the bill for May and June usage, the last bill out of the old system, but will be paid through the new system.

Bickel also said there will be how-to videos on the city’s official YouTube page as well as written guides on the city’s website.

The process to craft these new systems went deep, Bickel said, as staff questioned many of the assumptions of past processes to create a better system.

“We would sit down and look at our process and any time we’ve heard ‘we’ve always done it that way’ we dug deep to find the reason,” he said. “That’s going to make our staff a lot more efficient in their activities.”


Nov 09

Tips to help protect yourself and your loved ones from scams this holiday season

Posted on November 9, 2018 at 4:07 PM by Michele Woodhouse

Watch out for holiday scams!

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