COVID-19 Scams Targeting Remote Workforces
As the coronavirus surged from a regional outbreak to a global pandemic, hacking schemes followed suit. It might seem incomprehensible, but cybercriminals ramped up COVID-19 scams to unprecedented levels while people suffered through this global pandemic.
“From January 1 until (April 15), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gotten 18,235 reports related to COVID-19, and people reported losing $13.44 million dollars to fraud,” Division of Consumer Response & Operations lead data analyst Paul Witt reported. “If you’re getting calls, emails, or texts, or you’re seeing ads or offers online, keep a few things in mind: First, the government will never call out of the blue to ask for money or your personal information (like Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers).”
Digital con artists initially exploited COVID-19 hot spots by leveraging fear and lack of information. As economies shuttered and remote connectivity became one of the only options to stay operational, hackers saw new work-from-home employees as low-hanging fruit. Relying on the fact that everyday people are often unfamiliar with elaborate and convincing scams, remote workers emerged as a pathway into entire business networks. As a member of the West Michigan business community, Micro Visions wants you and your organization to be safe from the proliferation of COVID-19 scams.
Methods Hackers Use in COVID-19 Scams
People who have only recently shifted to working from home are unlikely to be acclimated to the wide-ranging strategies employed by digital bandits. These confidence schemes require someone to make a fatal cybersecurity misstep. This might entail downloading a file laced with malicious software, clicking on a link that triggers an application, or providing personal data. One of these errors gives a hacker access to bank accounts, credit cards, or the company network. These are common COVID-19 hacker strategies.
- Phishing Scams: This ranks as the most widely used method of penetrating a device or network. Hackers blanket remote workforces with seemingly legitimate and urgent emails.
- Spear Phishing: This strategy involves directing someone to a phony coronavirus-themed website. Once on the page, information requests are made that include credit card info, bank accounts, and Social Security numbers, among others. Malware may penetrate or seize control of your device once a link has been clicked. Other schemes include deploying spyware to ascertain usernames and passwords into business platforms.
- SMS Schemes: Although phishing still appears to be the most prevalent scheme, text messaging fraud is on the rise. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, hackers have been sending out texts pretending to be government and health agencies. Once someone clicks on the embedded link, it’s over.
According to CNBC, “The $13.4 million lost to these scams is around 3 percent of the total $432.4 million in fraud reported to the FTC through the end of March.”
Top COVID-19 Scams You Should Know
In terms of protecting sensitive personal information and preventing a full-blown company network breach, it’s essential to promptly delete suspicious messages or confirm their origin using other communication methods. These are COVID-19 scams hackers are deploying to prey on people’s fear and anxiety.
- Stimulus Fraud: Targeted emails and robocalls posing as the IRS or other government agencies claim to have information about stimulus money. These scams often ask for personal confirmation data.
- Cures, Vaccines & Test Kits: Playing on fear, emails, text messages, and websites claim to have products and medication available. They are scams.
- News Alerts: Unless you signed up for a specific newsletter, it’s likely seemingly legitimate coronavirus reports are phonies.
- Business Email: Sophisticated cybercriminals may streamline their attack by sending employees emails that appear to be from a CEO. These are tainted with malicious applications that allow the hacker to circle back and breach company data.
The FTC recently published a “Seven Coronavirus Scams Targeting Your Business” that proves instructive. Any time you are presented with a COVID-19 communication, it’s crucial to exercise top-tier cybersecurity protocols.
If your organization recently increased its remote workforce footprint, enhanced cybersecurity measures are a necessity. These include business-grade firewalls, fully patched programs, virtual private networks, and ongoing cybersecurity awareness training, among others. There will likely be a growing number of COVID-19 scams. At Micro Visions, Inc., we deliver enhanced cybersecurity protections for West Michigan businesses.