The World Health Organization (WHO), a Geneva-based UN agency, has warned that criminals are taking advantage of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, to steal money or sensitive information.

Criminal elements are posing as WHO representatives, the agency said, adding that if anyone is contacting by a person or organization claiming to be from the WHO, they should take steps to verify their authenticity.

Examples of suspicious behaviour included asking for login information, sending unasked-for email attachments, directing people to a Website other than, and asking for direct donations to emergency response plans or funding appeals.

WHO said it never does any of these things, and warns that scams can come in the form of emails, websites, phone calls, text messages, and even fax messages.

Malicious emails sent by scammers are known as “phishing” emails. They appear to come from the WHO, and ask for sensitive information, such as user names and passwords, ask users to click on suspicious links, and open malicious attachments. Following these instructions allows criminals to install software that can give them access to, or damage, computers.

As many social media accounts share information about COVID-19, the head of WHO, Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus, called on the public to seek official sources (such as the WHO Website) to find out how to protect oneself, loved ones and the local community.

The WHO said it’s Website has comprehensive, regularly updated and authoritative expert information on the virus.

In a Tweet published on Saturday, Tedros, the WHO chief, acknowledged the anxiety that many feel about COVID-19, and emphasized the importance of preparation, and planning how to stay safe at work, school or places of worship.

On Saturday, WHO reported that two new Member States (Mexico and San Marino) reported cases of COVID-19 between Friday and Saturday, as the number of cases continues to rise.

The latest situation report from the organization shows that, over the latest 24-hour reporting period, the number of new cases outside of China (1,318) far outweighed the number of new cases within the country (435).

Nevertheless, the vast majority of confirmed cases (79,394) are in China. The other 52 affected countries currently have 6,009 cases between them. 2,838 people have died from the virus in China, with 86 deaths reported in the rest of the world.