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COVID-19 scams are spreading like a virus

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of innocent people made even more vulnerable under the weight of lockdown restrictions.

Can a sick world get even sicker? Sadly, yes. For every good person braving the wards to help those in need, there’s a shyster intent on kicking us while we’re down.

Cybercriminals are taking advantage of innocent people made even more vulnerable under the weight of lockdown restrictions. And as COVID-19 continues to limit our ability to access normal, reputable buying options, bogus online vendors continue to rise costing unwitting consumers hundreds of millions in hard-earned cash..

Hot tubs have been hot property

And when we say hot, we really mean stolen, if they actually existed!

Here’s the scenario: As summer rolls in across parts of the globe, those lucky enough to have disposable income start looking outside. ‘What would enhance our outdoor lockdown pleasure and relieve the boredom?’ they say. ‘I know – a hot tub!’

Hot tub, spa pool, call it what you like, locked-down people suddenly have an urgent need to grace their yard with one. And where’s the easiest place to order a hot tub during lockdown? The internet.

Cybercriminals know this and they set up highly convincing websites for hot tubs that simply don’t exist. Of course, unsuspecting buyers remain oblivious until their hot tub doesn’t arrive on the designated day. Or the day after…

Too late, they’ve already paid.  

Thousands are being taken for a horrifying ride

It doesn’t end with hot tubs. All manner of products and services are now being offered online and some of them are as real as polka dot unicorns. Everything from cars to cats can be ordered and paid for with a few clicks, all sight unseen as scammers hide behind fallacious lockdown viewing restrictions.

Fraudulent online entertainment services, fake charities, bogus medical offers, discounted masks, sanitisers and test kits; they’re all out there ready to take you for a very bumpy, bank account-emptying ride.

Cold-hearted calls are rife

It doesn’t always begin with an email. Cyber gangs have set up elaborate hoaxes involving track-and-trace fraud. These heartless thieves will call claiming that you have been in contact with someone with coronavirus. In the ensuing panic, they will extract personal details or send you to malicious internet links.

Add a computer virus to your troubles

Your laptop is playing up and you can’t take it to the local repair shop during lockdown. Ah, but what luck, there’s an online repair shop offering remote repairs! How easy can it be until all your personal information and bank accounts have been infiltrated by malware.

And it doesn’t end there

Fraudsters are hitting on every possible angle made available through COVID-19 fears. Some pass themselves off as registered carers who con vulnerable people into handing over money cards and passwords so they can do their shopping for them. Both carer and card then vanish into the night.

Others offer evaluations for free emergency care via links that promptly steal personal information.

Basically, if there’s a way to exploit people during the pandemic, these cruel crooks will find it.

So how do you beat the online bandits?

Remember, most of the current scams shamelessly leverage off some sort of COVID-19 message. They will purport to be doing you a favour, making it easy to obtain products and services without leaving your home.

They may even pose as a trusted brand or business identity. So, the basic rule of thumb is: be wary. If something seems a bit off, it probably is. If the suspicious offer claims to be from a reputable company, contact that company directly for clarification. If you’ve never heard of them, the best advice is to stay well clear.

Regard any unsolicited request for private information such as bank account details, passwords or addresses as a massive red flag. Even if your bank’s logo sits proudly atop this request, be suspicious and contact customer service immediately.

Don’t entrust your computer repairs into the hands of online repair shops without thoroughly vetting them first. And don’t whatever you do click links in emails from unknown sources. Chances are they contain viruses and all your personal data will be soaked up by malicious malware in a flash.

Oh, and one more thing, a common ingredient in bogus email offers is bad grammar and spelling mistakes. If there is even one obvious error, it’s probably a scam.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, contact me directly. With a calm, considered approach and a wealth of experience unraveling online fraud cases, chances are your nasty brush with cybercrime will have a happy resolution.  

This article was originally published

Picture of Keith Schafferius Private Investigator

Keith Schafferius Private Investigator

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