Across America: COVID-19 testing before holidays and scammers targeting SIM cards

Morning In America

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — “Morning in America” highlights communities from all across the country. Here are the top headlines you should know for Wednesday, Nov. 24.

New York, New York

People may be prepared to battle traffic on the roads this holiday season, but for many, there’s one extra errand they are completing before they gather.

The scramble is on to get a, hopefully, negative COVID-19 test even for the vaccinated. And with demand increasing, increased traffic at COVID-19 testing centers is to be expected.

“We are visiting family, and because we were on a plane, [we tested] just for precaution,” Graciela Hendel, who was getting tested inside a West Village, New York clinic, said.

Michaela Vira, a ZipCar medical assistant, said the location has been “pretty busy.”

“We’ve been having a lot of families come in for school and traveling visiting grandparents — just to be safe,” she said.

New York City health officials said last week that testing would add an extra layer of precaution ahead of gatherings, even for those who are vaccinated.

A PCR lab test can take a day or two to come back, but some studies suggest it may be a bit more accurate than those 15- to 20-minute rapid tests if you don’t have symptoms. However, with people scrambling out for the holidays, faster results may be the necessity.

City health officials recommended doing what is best for you, emphasizing that any test is better than no test.

Nashville, Tennessee

Scammers know ’tis the season for online shopping, and they are trying new tricks.

Inside your phone is a tiny card – called a SIM card. SIM stands for “Subscriber Identity Module.” Criminals are constantly trying to find new ways to get their hands on that tiny device, which can create big problems for you. It’s called SIM-jacking.

“So that’s where you have your device and it has a SIM card in it, and the hacker has convinced your telephone provider too that they are you. So they have now got a SIM card in their device that has your phone number; they’ve taken over your phone number,” said Weston Morris, director of global strategy – Digital Workplace Services at Unisys.

Protecting yourself from such an abstract idea can be overwhelming, but Morris said it’s pretty simple.

“Well, it starts with how did they figure out to impersonate you. It’s because so much of our lives are online, on Instagram, or with Facebook, and they find out — this is your mother’s maiden name, or this is the high school you went to, your high school mascot or that your favorite movie or your pet’s name, which are all of typically our secret questions,” said Morris.

Hackers collect data and use it against you. However, you can protect yourself with two basic steps:

  • Make sure your software is up-to-date. and when browsing online.
  • When browsing online, make sure the web address you’re visiting starts with HTTPS and not just HTTP.

Also, be wary of devious text messages such as this one, which reads: “You’ve got a reward from AT&T.” It fits the pattern of a so-called “smishing” scam, which uses text messages to lure you to a phishing setup aimed at getting your credit card or bank information.

Morris said he’d gotten several of these messages recently.

“I got a text message on my phone. And it was allegedly from AT&T; it says, ‘Hey, congratulations, being a loyal user, did you get your gift from AT&T yet? Click here.’”

AT&T has a warning on its website that says, ‘Never click on links in a text message you didn’t ask for or from a number you don’t recognize.’

If you fall victim to an attack, Morris says, immediately disconnect your device, reset it and change all your passwords. Then, contact your account holder and make sure it hasn’t been compromised.

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