Scammers are busy at work in this time of chaos and uncertainty around the world. Action Fraud, a reporting center for cybercrime in the United Kingdom, reports an increase of 400% in Corona-related fraud incidences.
In the US, the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as attorneys general across the country, report similar increases in fraud related to COVID-19. As the public remains isolated at home, there is increased fear and a need for up-to-date information on the progress of the pandemic. The scammers use familiar methods to capitalize on this fear and the fact that many people are now using technology for the first time.
One example of this is receiving an email from someone posing as a representative of The World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or some other well-known organization like Johns Hopkins University or the Red Cross. People are asked to click on a link in an email for important information, which then downloads malware on the user’s computer. From there, the scammer has access to credit card numbers and other sensitive information. The same is true of sites selling protective masks and test kits that are never delivered after being paid for online. There is a new area that has opened up for scammers, too, and that involves more people working from home.
Working at home isn’t new but many companies have had no choice but to allow their workforce to work remotely. Company networks in the workplace are closely monitored and secured but now their employees are conducting business on networks that are not as secure. This creates an opportunity for cybercriminals to gain access to information that can be used in many unscrupulous ways. People working from home are just as vulnerable as anyone else to the need for news about COVID-19, so many are liable to click on a link during work hours that then infects their work network. How can we stay out of the crosshairs of these scams?
First, experts at the FBI warn us to go directly to the source of any email, phone call, text, or in-person request for money or an order of goods or services. Slow the process down and be cautious about purchasing anything without checking out the company or organization yourself, using your own research methods. This means that links or email attachments should not be opened unless you have requested the information and are certain they can be trusted. And what about our networks and computers?
It is good practice to update devices and software regularly but be careful how it is done. Those messages that pop up on the screen to remind us to check the virus protection and updates are often fake, too. So, go directly to the software site that protects your computer and check for updates. Don’t download anything from a pop up.
COVID-19 has raised the level of tension in every area of life. We are isolated and hungry for current information. This sets a perfect stage for scammers to heighten their efforts to defraud us of our money and our trust. It is critical that we stay alert and follow safe practices even in these uncertain times.
South Florida Fraud Attorney