That’s because cybercriminals have decided to take advantage of the global fear, confusion and uncertainty around the world. Plus, vast numbers of people are now working from home and this usually means they are doing so with less cybersecurity measures in place than they would have in their office.
Malicious messages examples seen
- email and social media messages impersonating medical expert bodies including the NHS, World Health Organization (WHO), and Centre for Disease and Control (CDC), requesting a donation to research a vaccine.
- GOV.UK themed text messages titled 'You are eligible to get a tax refund (rebate) of 128.34 GBP
- messages advertising protective masks and hand sanitisers from bogus websites
1. Phishing Scams
This is perhaps the biggest scam out there right now because phishing emails can come in many different forms. Most commonly, hackers are pretending to be health officials or national authorities offering advice about staying safe during the Corona outbreak. The reality is that they are trying to trick unsuspecting individuals into downloading harmful malware or providing sensitive, personal information.
Some of these phishing emails look really sophisticated, with one in particular being a fake email sent from the World Health Organisation (WHO), offering tips on how to avoid falling ill with the virus. Once the email user clicks on the link provided, they are redirected to a site that steals their personal information. The problem is, with so many people being genuinely worried about their health and hoping to stop the spread, many don’t suspect that these types of emails could be a scam.
The best way to avoid falling victim to these types of phishing emails is to look for suspicious email addresses or lots of spelling mistakes. And even if the email looks pretty legitimate, it might still be worth going direct to the sender’s website instead. For example, going direct to the World Health Organisation website for advice means you can avoid clicking any links from the email. That way you can find the information you need and reduce the risk of falling victim to a cybercrime.
Secondly, if an email asks for money or bitcoin donations to help tackle Coronavirus, don’t make any transfers. Again, if you wish to help by donating money or services, go directly to the websites of charities or health organisations to see how you can help.
It’s also worth noting, that these phishing scams can also be received as a text message or phone call. If you receive strange texts or voicemails asking for donations, giving offers on vaccines or warning you about cases in your local area, approach with caution and certainly don’t give away any of your personal details.
2. Fake Websites
Another common scam designed to play on fear and uncertainty is the setting up of fake websites. Cybercriminals are creating Coronavirus-related websites which claim to offer pharmaceuticals or remedies for the virus such as testing kits, vaccines, and other fake health solutions. The idea is to get anxious victims to part with their bank details or to hack their computer and install malware on their systems.
In these situations, there are some things you can do. Firstly, check if the website has a secure connection. You’ll know whether it does or doesn't by the padlock in the search bar. If there is a padlock in the search bar this means the site is secure, if there isn't, then it’s a good idea to avoid this site. Not only this but if the website is poorly designed and the text has a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, this could also be a big red flag.
Finally, it’s also important to be aware that not many sites are genuinely going to be offering these health solutions and if they appear to be selling in-demand products at an extremely low price, then it’s most likely a scam. Remember, if it seems to good to be true then it probably is.
3. App Scams
Cybercriminals are also targeting smartphones and mobile devices with dedicated Coronavirus apps. These apps claim to track the spread of the virus in your local area and with many people concerned about the proximity of the virus to their home, it’s not surprising that people are willing to download such an app.
The reality, however, is that the app then installs malware into your device and not only comprises your tech, but also all the personal information stored within it. In some cases, the app can lock victims out of their phone or tablet demanding a ransom to get back in, threatening to delete all the information, contact details and photos stored inside.
4. Fake Coronavirus Maps
Last but not least, the fake Coronavirus map scam. Similar to that of the tracking app, cybercriminals have begun circulating graphics of fake maps on which they claim to highlight where all the Coronavirus cases are in your country. These are usually sent round on social media and through email.
Of course, these images are not meant to educate or help you in any way. In fact, the scammers include malware in the links so that once you’ve clicked to open the image this immediately infects your device. In most cases, this has been reported to be the kind of bug that can steal data such as bank details, passwords, login information and other sensitive data stored on your device.
Look for the Red Flags
- Never open attachments or click on links within suspicious or unexpected emails, text and social media messages
- Look for the suspicious signs; does the message convey a sense of urgency to perform an action?
- Always remember legitimate organisations never ask for passwords, payment card details and sensitive data to be sent by email