Cyber criminals are taking advantage of the hype surrounding Coronavirus, or Covid-19. It is all we see in the news and on our Social Media feeds. Cyber criminals are preying on our emotions, because they know we want the latest information – How many are infected? How many have died? How do I protect myself? What are the latest government restrictions on my personal movements? Cyber criminals know they can trick you, now more than ever, with social engineering techniques to have you click on something you shouldn’t or provide personal information you should be protecting.
You need to be vigilant online, in the same way you are when withdrawing cash from an ATM in a high-crime area. The criminals are setting their traps, waiting to pounce. Be careful out there, learn what to look out for and how to protect yourself.
What to look out for:
Fake emails (Phishing) – An email you receive looks legitimate, but it’s not – the logo makes it look like it came from your bank or is an official government email. You are asked to act and click on a link, there is a sense of urgency. Don’t! The link is not real, and takes you to a fake website impersonating the organisation you think it’s from.
Fake Text / SMS – A text message looks like it came from the government – an urgent update on the latest news, the latest restrictions, or how you can claim money from the government. You click on the link to find out more information. The link is not real, and you visit a fake website.
Fake Mobile Apps – You see an ad online for an app that will provide the latest news, or claims to show you locations of infected people. You want to know more, so you click on the ad. Don’t! Either the link takes you to a fake website or downloads a fake ad with malware to infect your device.
Fake News / Clickbait – You see what looks like a breaking news story, or an urgent update, or news that a celebrity or world leader has contracted the virus or died. You need to know what is happening, so you click on the link to learn more. Don’t! Google the news instead.
Fake Products – You see an ad, or receive an email, advertising a product in high demand: facemasks, gloves, hand sanitiser, toilet paper, or the sure-fire way to prevent or cure coronavirus. It gains your interest; you click on the ad and give your personal and credit card information. But the site isn’t real, there are no products, and now the criminals have your credit card details.
Impersonating Social Media profiles of your “friends” – You get a direct message from your friend on social media, telling you they lost their job and are desperate for money to feed themselves or their family. Can you send some to them please? It’s not your friend, it’s a criminal who is impersonating your friend.
You may see these things while browsing websites online or on your favourite social media platform. A friend may even have sent it to you, thinking it is genuine. Learn to question everything you see online. Don’t click on something that elicits an immediate emotional response. Take a moment to question and evaluate what is real.
Now that you are armed with information of what the cyber criminals are doing, and practical tips to stay safe online, you have a fighting chance against increasingly sophisticated online scams.
Practical tips for staying safe online amid the Covid-19 Pandemic:
- Be suspicious of every email and text message you receive
- Don’t click on links in emails or text messages, type the website into the internet browser
- Only rely on news and government information from trusted sources
- Never send money without asking for other opinions first
- Question everything you see online, especially social media; can it be verified?
- Never give your passwords to anyone
- Always check the website you are on before you enter personal, credit card, or bank account information – ensure it is the correct website – check three times.
- Question urgent, “Act Now” messages and online ads playing on your emotions
Trent Youl is the founder and CEO of FraudWatch International, a Global online fraud prevention company based in Melbourne, Australia since 2003.