Cyber Criminals Are Taking Advantage of COVID-19 - Here's How To Spot Them
Cyber criminals are playing on the emotions and fears of the public to pull off scams. Here's how to spot them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best in some people as society and individuals adapt to the new normal, but others have also been taking advantage of the situation. The Verge recently reported that Google experienced 18 million malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19 and an additional 240 million spam messages about the pandemic.
From fake donation websites to promises of testing and contact tracing, cyber criminals are playing on the emotions of the public to collect funds under false pretenses and/or steal their personal information. It's more important than ever to be vigilant of these scams and understanding how to spot them is the first step.
What do cyber criminals want?
Cyber attacks come in many different forms and are a lot more sophisticated than someone blatantly asking for your credit card information. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security explained that malicious parties use many tactics to try to trick victims into providing them with sensitive information or donating to a fraudulent charity.
These scams may use an email, text or call with a COVID-19 related subject line and then encourage users to click on a link or attachment that could be ransomware or input information including their Social Security number or credit card details. Ultimately, cyber criminals are hoping to retrieve any information they can use for their gain. Whether it's holding personal data or software for ransom, receiving a donation under false pretenses or collecting credit card or Social Security numbers to use maliciously, cyber criminals are always looking for an opportunity to exploit a weak firewall or unsecured information.
Be vigilant with emails that seem too good to be true or incite fear.
How to spot a phishing scam
Phishing scams are a lot more advanced than they used to be, and many cyber criminals have a knack for making emails and texts with fraudulent links look legitimate. During the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers may be mimicking government organizations like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect a victim's information. They may also masquerade as a charity looking for donations. The Federal Trade Commission cautioned the public to be wary if they receive an email or text that:
- Offers a coupon or free product/service
- Needs you to click a link to make a payment
- Asks you to confirm personal information
- Requires payment information
- Says you're eligible for a government refund
The fact of the matter is that the government or legitimate company would not be emailing you to ask for any personal details such as your Social Security number or credit card information. If you do have questions, pick up the phone and call the legitimate number of the organization. Another piece of advice from the government is to always verify a charity's authenticity before making a donation.
Of course, even the most vigilant individual may find their information is now in the wrong hands. That's why it's important to use multi-factor authentication for your accounts so you will be alerted if someone else tries to log into something like your bank account. Additionally, always protect your data by backing it up.
For more information on best practices for protecting your personal financial information online, contact your local Vectra Bank representative today.