The Rise in Scams: Learn The M.O.’s & Tips to Stay Safe!

You have three kids, two dogs and a full-time job. You manage three different devices, multiple emails and too many social media accounts to track.

Result: your mind is a deluge of never-ending to do’s. Fraudsters know this, and they try to cash-in by preying on vulnerable emotional states.

So, what happens when you take an already busy life and sprinkle in a pandemic? Well, fraudsters have even more levers at their disposal to execute a variety of scams.

The Good News: we can stay vigilant by understanding the levers fraudsters pull and learning some simple tips to stay safe!

What Do These Scams Look Like?

Health Lever:

The most obvious thing for fraudsters to exploit is people’s desire to know more about the evolving pandemic. Scammers send emails that look like they are from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They layer in more trust by including a diversion to the genuine CDC’s advice page. If the user bites at the temptation to learn more, they will be sent to a Microsoft log-in page. If the user fills in that information the fraudster easily gains controls of the user’s email and password.

Good Samaritan Lever:

A silver lining during times of crisis is the good hearts of many folks that comes to the fore. Unfortunately, fraudsters exploit this as a weakness. Scam emails from phony charities are being sent, asking for donations to help fight the virus. Other emails will claim there are “little things” you can do to help save lives. The email then directs you to attached documents on how to help prevent the spread of the disease – likely containing malware or ransomware. In all cases, these are phony claims aimed at tugging on the heartstrings of folks looking to lend a hand.

Financial Lever:

To reduce the financial strain, governments around the world are legislating for the availability of legitimate relief packages to help individuals and businesses. Fraudsters know this and are drafting their own relief plans to line their pockets. They often come as emails disguised as a tax refund stating that the individual is owed money from the government. Generally speaking, the emails are not grammatically strong, but do direct folks to an official-looking page to claim their refund. Here is where they capture tax and financial information from unsuspecting victims.

You might be thinking, “That would never happen to me… who would fall for that?”.

Well, put simply, frightened and confused people who are overloaded with information.

It’s incumbent on us all to be vigilant to secure the future of our families and livelihoods. Spread awareness and educate your loved ones. And by all means, take the time to reach out to folks that are vulnerable.

Some Tips to Use and Share with Others

  • Don’t rely on inbound emails as your source for up-to-date virus information. There are safe and reliable sources you can reach out to and ensure they are the genuine organization, such as the CDC and World Health Organization. Proactively bookmarking these destinations ensures you are engaging with reliable websites and are staying informed while staying safe.
  • Government agencies will never contact you via email about a tax refund and then ask for personal information. Again, rely on reliable government websites you proactively research.
  • There is nothing wrong with donating to new charities, but they need to properly vetted. When in doubt, there are many well-known, global organizations you can fall back on and feel safe.
  • Last, there is zero urgency to take immediate action from an email or phone call. Yes, with a global pandemic it certainly feels like urgency is increased, but in the words of a terrific fraud awareness campaign… Take Five. And think through what is being asked of you. There is no ticking time bomb. Take the time to take thoughtful action.

Stay Safe & Vigilant!

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Author: PJ Rohall

PJ guides the strategic roadmap. He leverages a strong understanding of the fraud ecosystem, both provider and end-user, and informs feature development. Outside of About-Fraud, PJ is the Head of Fraud Strategy & Education at SEON. He speaks, engages and educates folks on relevant fraud trends and strategies, while continuously learning from the industry and empowering fraud fighters across the globe.