During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most people are spending more time than ever before at home, using their mobile phones and computers for work, news, entertainment, and communication with loved ones.
Cybercriminals see the increase in online activity during this time of social distancing as an opportunity to exploit public fears about the deadly virus for their own personal gain. In this article, we go over some of the most common COVID-19 scams to help you identify and avoid them.
Common COVID-19 Scams
Between January 1 and May 21, over 52,000 Americans reported fraud related to COVID-19, with their losses totaling over $38 million. The cybercrime situation has taken a similar turn for the worse in other countries around the world, which shows that many individuals and organizations alike are still not familiar with the main types of COVID-19 scams.
Vishing (Phone Scams)
The word vishing was created as a combination of “voice” and “phishing” to describe a criminal phone fraud that uses social engineering to obtain personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims.
In recent months, there have been many reports about robocalls offering COVID-19 test kits and vaccines, often targeting high-risk individuals with existing medical conditions. Some robocalls promise unspecified refunds or virus-related business loans. In most cases, the victim is asked to provide credit card information, which is when things take a sharp turn for the worse.
Phishing (Email Scams)
Cybercriminals are sending millions of COVID-19 phishing emails every day in an attempt to convince those affected by the global crises to download a malicious attachment or submit personal information.
Such phishing emails typically appear to have come from some national or global health authority, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which was forced to issue multiple cybersecurity warnings to address the issue.
Smishing (Text Scams)
Simply put, smishing is the SMS version of phishing. Many people in the United States have received text messages offering $30,000 in COVID-19 relief from the FCC Financial Care Center. Of course, no such relief program exists, and the sole purpose of the text messages was to obtain contact information and social security numbers from their recipients.
Smishing can be more effective than email phishing because most people are not used to receiving fake text messages When they do receive one, they are more likely to take it seriously than an email message with the same content.
Tips to Avoid COVID-19 Scams
There are many things individuals and organizations can do to protect themselves from coronavirus scams, starting with these three tips:
- Stay informed: Scammers are constantly evolving their tactics, which is why it’s so important to sign up for security newsletters and read about the latest scams.
- Contact the sender directly: One of the most straightforward ways to avoid becoming the victim of a phishing email or text message is to contact the supposed sender directly through an official phone number or email address.
- Use a reliable anti-malware solution: No matter how careful you are, all it takes for an email with a malicious attachment to slip through is a single mistake. A reliable anti-malware solution can prevent this mistake from turning into a disaster, but only if you keep it updated.