Although most people have come together during the COVID-19 pandemic by staying home, social distancing and wearing face coverings to limit the spread of the coronavirus, there are some who are targeting victims who are worried, lonely and needy. Scammers have come up with new ways to prey on disinformation, fear and insecurity by offering fake health services, phony shopping websites and asking for donations.

There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and identify a scam when you see it. First, let’s understand how these scams work and what to look out for.

What do these scams look like?

COVID scams rely upon the headlines to swindle people. These attacks are focused on email and social media platforms. They usually consist of a link, which if opened, downloads malicious software on the device. Through this cybercriminals can access personal information from the device. They usually disguise themselves as legitimate organizations to earn the trust of the victim. These are commonly known as ‘Phishing attacks’.

The format and the content of such emails or posts can sometimes be clear giveaways.

Some of these can be:

  • Unfamiliar sources – You don’t recognize the address? Best if you google the contact information or not open it at all.
  • Making you click on a link or download an attachment – Even if it seems legit, double-check everything before clicking on that link
  • Rushing you to perform an action – Take your time to evaluate. Better safe than sorry, right?
  • Missing or misspelled information – Something looks shady? It probably is.

Some common disguises used by these cybercriminals are:

  • Advertisements for masks, sanitizers and disinfectacts
  • Huge discounts from food deals from unknown brands
  • Government departments or NGOs offering relief funds and grants
  • Someone in dire need of funds due to unemployment, medical bills, food shortage etc.
  • Health departments alerting the recipient about being in contact with a Coronavirus patient and offering fake tests
  • Fake investment opportunities advertised on social media sites, encouraging victims to ‘take advantage’ of the financial downturn

How can we protect ourselves?

Even though all this might seem a little unsettling, there are a number of things we can do to secure our information and avoid falling prey to scams and identity theft.

1- Keep your passwords safe and reset them often

Never share your passwords/pin with anyone or write them down. Change your passwords regularly to be extra safe.

2- Secure and update your devices

Make sure all your devices and browsers are running on the latest software. You can also download a security software that can scan your device and alert you about any malware in your system. They also scan websites and help you avoid suspicious links.

3- Surf safely

Avoid opening links or downloading attachments from fishy sources. You can check the link address and domain by hovering your mouse over the link. While doing online shopping, make sure the website is reliable and safe for online payments. Check customer reviews where possible. Be wary of posting sensitive information on social media websites.

4- Keep an eye on your transactions

Check your monthly or weekly bank statements. If you see any alarming activity or suspicious transaction, alert your bank immediately.

5- Donate with caution

There are a lot of people and NGOs you can help or donate to. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of fraudsters online who try to fill their pockets by posting fake cases online. Make sure you properly vet the case so that the money lands in the right hands.

 How to report?

If you’ve spotted or been a victim of these fraudsters make sure you report it to FIA’s cybercrime unit. You can protect others from also falling prey to it.

Phone Number: +9911

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.nr3c.gov.pk/creport.php

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