Criminals are getting busier – and creative – with a wave of new scams that are preying on people’s fears and concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
The big picture: Desperate people find their unemployment checks and stimulus payments Fly. They are also bombarded with bogus treatment offers, bogus work-from-home offers, and messages asking for personal financial information.
In perhaps the most common scam, criminals file bogus unemployment claims on behalf of real people who haven’t lost their jobs, hitting state after state.
- The rush to get relief money out of people’s hands has introduced new vulnerabilities in unemployment systems – state agencies and corporate human resources departments are quick to approve applications without demanding much evidence .
- A Nigerian criminal network called “Scattered Canary” may be responsible for much of this fraud, which is made more attractive by the additional $ 600 per week in unemployment benefits enacted by Congress.
- Washington state – one of the first outbreaks of coronavirus in the United States – appears to have been hit the hardest, with hundreds of millions of dollars in profits siphoned off, through the Seattle Times.
Where he is : The Federal Trade Commission says consumers have reported about $ 50 million in losses to the agency.
- TransUnion, the credit bureau, operates a weekly survey this shows that 29% of consumers say they have been the target of digital fraud linked to COVID-19.
“Some of the really pernicious the things we were seeing were about people ordering PPE-like equipment – face masks, hand sanitizer – and then that never happens, ”Monica Vaca of the FTC told Axios.
“Fraud is big business, and it works like every other business, ”Will LaSala of OneSpan, which sells anti-fraud software, told Axios.
- Misinformation about COVID-19 – as well as items like soap and toilet paper – has prompted many people to try and buy things from merchant websites that have turned out to be fake, or to click on offers from phishing.
- Scammers have dangled lures like “check your $ 1,200 stimulus payment status” to trick people into disclosing information via email, phone and text.
- Other scams include bogus charity websites; bogus Small Business Administration loan offers; fictitious work-from-home programs that force people to prepay; and calls from an area code that claims to be from a person’s doctor.
Official appearance notice Claiming to belong to the government could mean that you have been overpaid in the form of stimulus or unemployment benefits and need to pay the money back immediately.
- “A lot of times they’ll say you have to do it right away or you’ll be arrested – and, oh, by the way, put it on an Apple gift card,” said Paul Stephens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at Axios. .
Then there are the W-2 scams, in which a hacker forges a CEO’s email address and asks the HR department for a list of employee tax information.
- “When we were working from offices there were firewalls in place that were really blocking a lot of things, but now that we are working from home we don’t have those protections in place anymore,” says LaSala. “It really led to a lot of these attacks.”
Who scams who: While the elderly are frequent victims, the most unexpected are millennials (who are in their prime to be at home, online, inactive and nervous) and college students, who are nervous about their future. university future and their tuition fees.
- “They pretend they’re from the school’s finance department and they give you choices,” Paige Hanson, head of cybersecurity training at NortonLifeLock, told Axios. “They’ll tell you, ‘click on this link to verify your personal information.’ It will go to a bogus landing page “where criminals collect the information they need to take advantage of the student.
Even if only a small percentage Of those successful fraud attempts, “the outcome is significant,” Crane Hassold, senior director of cyber intelligence at email security firm Agari, told Axios.
- “Some of these attackers are working 40 hours a week. These attacks are getting more and more sophisticated, more realistic.”
Experts offered some advice to try to protect yourself:
- “Be wary of any unsolicited phone calls or texts that you may receive from anyone, unless you have initiated contact with that person,” Stephens said. When in doubt, call back a number that you know is legitimate.
- Talk to someone before you act. “Talk to a friend, talk to your brother or someone,” Hanson said. “Even if you are in this moment and want to react, they might know about this scam.”