Much of life has changed in the last year. As communities focused on social distancing and staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19, many of the routines of life’s daily activities changed. Consumers are now spending more time on digital devices such as the computer, tablet, and smartphone surfing the web, shopping, and catching up with friends on social media. With so many of us transitioning from in-person to online, new opportunities arose for cybercriminals to exploit the changing circumstances. Cybercriminals, ever the opportunists, are taking advantage of the new environment to profit. The FTC received over 1.3M fraud reports in Q1-Q3 of 2020, resulting in total losses of over $1.507M.
One fraud threat to watch out for in this new normal is phishing. Phishing, the practice of sending seemingly legitimate emails from organizations in an attempt to have an individual give up sensitive information like login credentials, has been given a new life in the pandemic and post-pandemic world. Attackers are using COVID-19 and/or stimulus payments as bait to impersonate brands and mislead consumers in an attempt to gain personal information, login credentials, credit card information, etc. Examples include emails promising stimulus payments or COVID-19 tests that then ask the recipient for payment details in order to process the request. Unsuspecting consumers may believe these types of emails to be legitimate. In particular, the offer of a stimulus payment makes the phishing attempt more enticing, distracting the recipient from the possibility that it may be fraudulent.
Remember, if anyone requests personal information like social security or bank account numbers, login credentials or payment information of any kind, it is usually a scam. With so much misinformation and so many scam artists waiting to take advantage of fear and confusion, it is smart to be skeptical of any information you see or receive these days. For information related to the Coronavirus, visit What the U.S. Government is Doing. There you’ll find links to federal, state and local government agencies.