Early this year around April, I noticed that I was receiving a lot more spam mail than usual. I also received calls from unknown numbers more frequently, as well as scam applications for various things. It wasn’t until I looked online and did some research that I found articles explaining how much of an issue this was due to covid. It is no surprise that covid has left individuals with many financial problems. During this time of uncertainty and instability, online scams, fraud, and identity theft are very stressful things to go through specifically with current conditions.
The Corona virus outbreak has had a significant effect on the daily lives of many individuals. It has affected every part of life, and it seems that we now live in a new “normal” so to speak, as we guide our way through these hard times. For some, Covid has meant the loss of graduation, a job, a home, or most heartbreaking, a loved one. It also seems that with this new “normal”, we must become accustomed to a new world of challenges and threats. As a result of the virus, online usage has definitely spiked as many businesses, organizations and schools, moved towards virtual meetings. Aside from the professional usage, there has also been a spike in social media usage which ultimately does help connect people from all over the world. While the pros of online usage have helped in making working through covid easier, they have also introduced a new challenge for many. One being the challenge people face with cybersecurity.
Due to this, I was interested in viewing “Overcoming Cybersecurity During the COVID 19 Pandemic”, which was held by Trend Micro. In the webinar, they explain that in the first half of 2020, they detected about 9 million email threats that contained URLs, all COVID-19 related. They also found that while these cybersecurity threats were globally a challenge, it seemed that the United States was one of the more targeted countries as it held 38.4% of all Covid related threats. In terms of Covid related messaging threats, they found that in January there were 4786, in February, 4028, in March, 897,711, and an April this number skyrocket to almost 3 million.
According to the webinar, victims are normally not chosen and instead they are one of many random people who are sent these files. They spoke about different techniques that are used when targeting victims, one being ransom. This is often done by having the individual believe that they owe or need to pay a certain amount of money for a service. They also mention threats relating to business email compromise, as they saw an 18% increase in after covid began. When advising small businesses during the pandemic, they mentioned that email is one of the more used tools in spreading these scams. therefore, it is important to pay attention to what files and URLs you open, as well as who you reply to.
The obvious main reason behind the increase in these scams have to do with profit. When Covid first hit, many people were applying for Unemployment benefits and the stimulus check, and so it was easier for cybercriminals to get information through calls and emails. For everyday people, they assumed nothing about the bank or government representative when talking on the phone. This issue raised enough attention that the Federal Trade Commission had to issue out warnings advising people not to respond to certain digital communication relating to checks or other financial benefits. They advised to not respond to unknown callers and be hesitant with what files and you trust.
Some things to look out for include an impersonator pretending to be a representative or a bank/other financial or professional institute, someone seeking donations for a non-recognizable charity related to the virus, someone offering too good to be true arrangements such as a work from home offer by using legitimate business correspondence, and someone posing to be a government organization claiming to provide information on Covid. While these aren’t the only scams you may come across, they do happen to be the most common. Another valuable piece of advice would be not to trust everything you see online or hear through a call since anyone can get your contact information, and if it involves giving away your information, it’s always good to double check before doing so.
The era of covid has added many layers of vulnerability that we must get accustomed to. It is unfortunate to think that we may be targets to those looking for financial gain despite the challenges we as individuals face. I myself am a college student, so this topic is one I take seriously as it puts me in an even more vulnerable place, then simply paying tuition during a pandemic. During these times, be advised that it is our civic duty to use technology morally, but to also be cautious since there are many forces at play who hold negative intentions.
Alvarez, Janet. “Don’t Fall Prey to These 4 Common Bank Scams.” CNBC, CNBC, 20 Sept. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/09/20/coronavirus-how-to-avoid-falling-for-4-common-bank-scams.html.
Chen, Brian X. “A Guide to Pandemic Scams, and What Not to Fall For.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 May 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/technology/personaltech/pandemic-scams.html.
“Coronavirus Advice for Consumers.” Federal Trade Commission, 16 Oct. 2020, www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams-consumer-advice.
“Cybersecurity Resources for COVID-19.” Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency CISA, www.cisa.gov/cybersecurity-resources-covid-19.
“The Startling Rise of Fraud and Identity Theft During the Coronavirus Pandemic.” PNC Insights, 17 Sept. 2020, www.pnc.com/insights/personal-finance/protect/the-startling-rise-of-fraud-and-identity-theft-during-coronavirus-pandemic.html.
I found your article to be very interesting as I have also faced an increased number of fraudulent calls, emails, and even texts since the beginning of the pandemic. With greater concern for financial security for many people, it is concerning that at this time it is becoming easier to use voice synthesizer programs that allow scammers to reach others who don’t even speak the same language and target residents of nations with fewer safety measures in preventing fraud. Do you believe that the establishment of a department which focuses on investigating and prosecuting these scammers through the FTC could be a possible way to reduce the number of victims?