Scammers haven’t taken rest during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have adapted their tactics and are targeting financially vulnerable victims, especially small business owners.
The other day, I was reading about the coronavirus relief measures taken by Charter to make its Spectrum Internet packages accessible to all consumers in the USA. I stumbled upon a piece of news revealing the Aerospace, hospitality, healthcare, transport, manufacturing, and insurance industries have been targeted already. That’s tragic!
This is happening in other countries as well. The UK Crime Detection unit received 21 fraud reports mentioning corona-virus. It may not sound like a big deal but over £800,000 has been lost. In 10 of these cases, people attempted to buy masks from a fraudulent seller. Some are even exploiting small business owners with bogus loan offers demanding an upfront fee.
Types of Scams to be Aware of:
To protect your business from scams like these, it’s important to know what type of scams are surging. Here’s a list of common ones:
Email from CEO
Social re-engineering is one of the most scams of all and that’s exactly what the scammers have started with. They send convincing emails impersonating to be the CEO of the business or a high ranking officer. The instructions include transferring funds, send gift cards, or wire money. The message is sent with high importance making it harder for an employee to verify anything since they are working from home.
It’s kind of similar to the CEO scam. The fraudster pretends to be a member of the IT support team asking employees to send their login credentials for remote maintenance. They unleash malware in your PC or collect personal or business information.
Cybercriminals also impersonate they are from CDC, WHO, and local health communities and send either phishing emails or text messages. They ask for banking details, social security numbers, and other personal information.
The email might also contain a malicious link or downloadable file. If you end up clicking or opening these, it may launch a larger attack.
employees working from home these days are receiving fake calls called robocalls asking the user to buy test kits, and Google my business verification scams.
Keep in mind the government or financial instructions never use robocalls to verify any information or ask you to buy something. If you need anything, you call them; not the other way around. Any time you receive such calls, hang up right away.
Supply Chain Scam
Factories have shut down to contain the spread of the coronavirus all over the world. Scammers have taken advantage of this. Very quickly, they have set up fake websites that look similar to that of trusted online retailers.
Before you buy anything online, check the URL and domain name carefully. Should you receive a message from an unknown supplier, always look up their email and check their website before responding.
Tips for Small Businesses to Prevent COVID-19 Scams
To protect your business from frauds like these, it’s important to educate your employees and follow some WFH security best practices. These tips might help:
Educate Your Employees
Predators have some traits in common. Be on the lookout for urgency and borrowing tactics. Avoid claims about solving your financial problems.
If you receive an email to transfer funds, no matter how convincing it is, always verify it first. This could come back to hurt your business in the long run.
Remain Vigilant At All Times
Phishing and malware scams are on the rise during this catastrophe. Don’t open emails from unknown senders. Do not click on suspicious links or download unknowing files.
Be Careful About Government Agency Scams
Fraudsters claim to work with government agencies such as WHO, CDC, FDIC. Recently, a scammer has been sending messages claiming to be from FIDC. They ask to confirm your personal financial information.
A government agency will never demand you to send a gift card, digital currency, or request a wire transfer to ask for banking information, social security number, credit/debit card numbers, etc.
Don’t Transfer Funds
Scammers are also taking advantage of the generosity of users. Do the due diligence and check the legitimacy of the charitable organization before donating money. For verification, check the list of charitable organizations shared by the Federal Trade Commission.
Protect Your Workforce
Develop a work from home policy for secure network connections, data access, and use of business equipment.
Use strong passwords and enable 2FA on all your accounts. This additional level of security will prevent unauthorized users from breaking into your account.
Educate your employees on cybersecurity best practices to prevent phishing tactics and email compromise schemes, and similar other topics.
Cybercriminals are opportunists. They are on the lookout to exploit the current events. You should be careful whether you are a small business owner, an employee working from home, or an average consumer. I try to be extra cautious when making Spectrum bill pay transactions online, ordering products from Amazon and conducting banking transactions, etc. Advise your family to be vigilant as well.
Stay home, stay safe.
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