Cyber Fraud in the Time of COVID-19

Cyber Fraud in the Time of COVID-19 by Trent Green

Ahh….Spring 2020, warming temperatures, fragrant Spring breezes, the flowering of that most iconic of southern plants, the azalea, and COVID-19.  Wait what??? Last year at this time, it is doubtful that anyone could have seen COVID-19 coming and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t have accurately predicted our current situation.  For most of us, the disruption to our daily lives has been immeasurable.  Work from home, closed schools, loss of jobs, canceled vacations, illness, and the list goes on and on.  As if all of this weren’t enough, queue the cybercriminals that view this as a fantastic opportunity to try to get their hands on your personal information and your money.

Cybercriminals look for any type of edge to allow them to gain access to your personal information which ultimately leads them to that proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow.  Cyber attacks of various types have seen a large increase since January 2020.  With the fear and distraction caused by COVID-19, businesses and consumers may have lost focus on protecting themselves when it comes to cybercrime.  To make matters worse, many people are now working from home and accessing the Internet without the aid of a proper firewall or updated anti-virus software.  To add to all of these potential weak spots, cybercriminals are issuing a barrage of virus-laden e-mails, links and interactive scams.

Themes of these attacks vary but many of them have some COVID-19 related topics.  Individuals should be extremely careful when reviewing e-mails from unknown senders.  Many of the current e-mail scams focus on COVID-19 financial relief programs such as the CARES Act.  Subject lines on e-mails might include: “Apply for CARES Act Loan” or “Verify the status of your refund check”.  Certainly, there are legit e-mails from reputable senders covering these very things, however, if you are unsure, don’t open the e-mail, attachment or click the link and check directly with the sender.  The goals of these types of attacks are usually to install a virus on your computer that will allow the criminal to access your information or to install ransomware.

Another recent scam has involved text alerts to mobile phone users.  These alerts usually being with some message regarding your debit or credit card.  The scammers will then contact the same number and request online banking login credentials.  The goal is to gain access to your accounts and use P2P or other funds transfer options to quickly send funds to another debit card or account.  In fact, a large scale nationwide scam of this type occurred several weeks ago.

The list of attacks doesn’t stop with the ones mentioned above.  You may be thinking, “what can I do to protect myself”.  Here are a few things that can aid in reducing the potential of you personally being affected by fraud:

  • Computer/Mobile Operating System – Make sure you are using a current version
  • Anti-Virus Software – Ensure you Anti-Virus Software is up to date
  • Home Wi-Fi – Make sure that your home Wi-Fi is encrypted with a password that you have chosen. Do not use the password that was provided with the product when you purchased it.
  • Login Credentials – Never provide login credentials and passwords to anyone over the phone that you do not know. A bank will never ask you for a password.
  • Card Information – Do not provide debit or credit card information to anyone over the phone or through an e-mail that you do not know.
  • Unknown E-mail senders – Do not click on links or attachments in e-mails from unknown senders
  • “Known” E-mail senders – Ensure that the e-mail is truly from the known sender if possible and not from a masked e-mail address

Lastly, if you ever suspect that your banking credentials or a debit or credit card have been compromised, contact your Oakworth Client Advisor immediately.