Cybercriminals often take advantage of trending topics in the news by preying on consumers using fear and urgency tactics. Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, fraudsters have been finding new ways to exploit these fears. Recent tactics are mimicking communications from trusted sources such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and possibly the consumer’s financial institution. These tactics can be very effective due to consumers’ need to get up-to-date information quickly, and in not analyzing the source diligently. Remain diligent to avoid becoming a victim.
The definition of a Phishing Scam is an email that looks as if it is from a legitimate organization, often a creditor or financial institution, but contains a link to a fake website that replicates the real one, in an effort to try to obtain financial or other confidential information from Internet users.
These become successful when a person is flooded with information about something, such as COVID-19, which makes it easier for the “bad” email to blend in with legitimate emails. Always check directly with your creditor or financial institution before clicking any links and/or providing any personal or financial information requests received via email.
With so many people out of work and the unemployment rate rising, fraudsters will “hire” people for fake employment. Spotting a fake employer can be difficult at times. Looking information up on the employer through a web search can help. If a “employer” asks you to send them money or any other form of payment back as this is a huge “red flag”.
Fraudsters set up fake websites that mimic the real thing. Some of the more popular fakes include health and government organizations. Do not click on any links received through email, text messaging, or social media unless you know for certain they are trustworthy. Instead, go directly to the official websites.
Seller and Buyer Scams
Online retail shopping is booming with stores closing. Some fraudsters will sell damaged, expired, or fake goods. If you’re selling items, some buyers will cancel payments after you have shipped the item, but before the payment clears. Always buy/sell goods from a reputable, trusted online retailer whenever possible. This will limit the chances of being defrauded.
Social Media and Charity Scams
Often times, social media posts and shares perpetuate fake charity organizations looking for donations. Fraudsters set up fake charities asking for donations to help fight the spread of the virus, help for the sick, or for those who lost employment. Do not make contributions to organizations in which you are not familiar without confirming its validity. Research the organization directly on their website if possible.
Recruiting Money Mules
This includes fake organizations or companies promising easy work and good money. Workers are paid through a fraudulent check then the “Employer” asks the “Employee” to send funds to another account, cash app, or funds through the mail. Do your research before committing to any potential income opportunities.
Tips for Avoiding Scams
- Do not click on the unknown. Especially password reset requests!
- Set up “Alerts” and notify your financial institution whenever anything seems suspicious.
- Examine links in emails. Better yet, go directly to the website or contact the sender by phone.
- Slow down and review information.
- Guard financial information.
- Turn on auto updates for electronic devices.
- Use security tools. Install antivirus programs on your devices.
- If in doubt, get a second, trusted opinion before acting.
Helpful – and legitimate – Resources
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/
Pennsylvania Department of Health – https://www.health.pa.gov/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/
Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information Blog – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/