We are practicing social distancing measures for a while now and have not been able to meet or see our loved ones. We are relying on technology to communicate and connect with our loved ones, do our work, and attend professional meetings or events.
But with this increasing reliance on technology, our chances of getting scammed online are increasing as we have never been an attractive target for scammers before. It is a known fact that during times of crises such fraudsters tend to take advantage of the masses who are scared and are desperate for something good.
Elderly people or people who have recently lost their jobs are more likely to become victims of such scams as they are likely to disclose their personal information to them. Scammers are using different tactics to lure unsuspecting victims into traps, these tactics include Phishing, Impersonating government officials (like the WHO), or just by spreading fear and false claims regarding the cure or how the virus originated.
This article will help in understanding how these people target the unsuspecting masses and trick them into giving up their personal information. Here are a few examples of how scammers and online trolls are taking advantage of the pandemic.
5G is the Cause of COVID-19
People love conspiracy theories, sometimes they give you a good laugh or sometimes you start to ponder whether they are true or not. But this conspiracy theory that 5G towers cause and facilitate the spread of the Coronavirus is just plain stupid.
This theory began with the deployment of 5G towers in certain countries since the range for some frequencies is around 1.6 kilometers it needed denser deployment as compared to 3G or 4G towers. Online trolls took advantage of it and started saying that traditions from these towers cause cancer and later on that it is causing the Coronavirus to spread. These are the same people saying that vaccines cause autism, trolls have been using such false claims for collecting donations to stop deployment of 5G towers and to stage protests.
According to the FDA, there is no cure available for the Novel Coronavirus worldwide as of now, scientists are currently working on developing a vaccine. Scammers have been targeting people via texts, emails, and calls saying that they are selling a “cure” for the virus for a premium price. These people also offer nonexistent protective gear and home tests if you pay in advance. Officials have advised to be vigilant and not to trust such sources, you should visit your official government website to stay up to date on news regarding COVID-19.
Phishing is the criminal act of luring people in a trap by imposing as a representative of a legitimate firm using emails, phone calls, and text messages. Recently a phishing scam was uncovered in which the scammers represented themselves as representatives of the World Health Organization and sent emails from real domains using domain spoofing.
In those emails the scammer would act as a physician who was willing to provide information regarding protecting yourself from the virus, a link would have been given which would redirect you to a different webpage where they would gather personal information or would infect your device with malware or ransomware. WHO has issued several statements regarding such scams and advising people not to trust such information.
Donations to Fight the Virus
Scammers have been circulating messages on social media forms and through emails by posing themselves as representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations or NGOs collecting donations to fight against the spread of the virus. They demand minor or large amounts of money in the form of Bitcoins from you by saying that your donations matter, once you fill the form to give a donation they obtain your personal information along with your financial information.
With the information, they could impersonate you and you become the victim of identity theft, officials advise against giving donations to such scammers and only to donate through proper channels in addition NGOs and government agencies do not collect donations in the form of Bitcoins.
Offers of Money
Some scammers could try to gain credibility by posing themselves as representatives of any government agency who is conducting a survey regarding the pandemic. They would offer you money in exchange for your personal information, they usually use the means of telephone or email to contact you.
You should know that government representatives would never use private numbers to contact you if they are collecting information regarding anything, it is considered a good practice to verify numbers and email addresses when in doubt from official websites.
As quite a number of people are laid off temporarily or permanently they do not have a source of income and are desperately looking for work. Scammers and fraudsters are using people’s helplessness to their advantage, you should avoid job offers which seem too good to be true and also for those which require your personal information beforehand. Research job offers and looks up the company yourself, usually, the jobs that are being offered are mentioned on the company’s website.
There are a number of applications that help you track the spread of the virus in your country, city, or neighborhood. These applications use your current location to give you the details, scammers are using this to their benefit and publishing apps which could track your whereabouts. They could also use the same application to access other personal information stored on your phone which they could use to their advantage. You should stay away from applications from unknown sources, there are a number of applications from credible sources.
The pandemic is far from over and so are the tactics which these scammers would use to extract information from you. You should remain skeptical and research the news and its sources. You should never give personal or banking information over the internet or phone, officials use proper channels to gather sensitive information. Staying safe from both the pandemic and scammers is in your hands.