Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the spread of coronavirus to exploit and play on the fears of consumers across Australia. Scammers are doing things such as falsely selling coronavirus-related products online, and using fake emails or text messages to try and obtain personal data. Other scams include phishing emails and phone calls impersonating the World Health Organisation, government authorities, and legitimate businesses – including travel agents and telecommunications companies.
As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, watch out for associated scams. Fraudsters want to profit from consumers’ fears, uncertainties and misinformation. Fraudsters are exploiting the crisis to facilitate fraud and cyber crime.
As the new virus spreads across the EU, rogue traders advertise and sell products, such as protective masks, caps and hand sanitizers to consumers which allegedly prevent or cure an infection. On 20 March 2020, the consumer protection (CPC) authorities of the Member States, with the support of the Commission, issued CPC Common Position COVID19 on the most reported scams and unfair practices in this context. The objective is to ask and help online platform operators to better identify such illegal practices, take them down and prevent similar ones to reappear.
INTERPOL is encouraging the public to exercise caution when buying medical supplies online during the current health crisis, with criminals capitalizing on the situation to run a range of financial scams. With surgical masks and other medical supplies in high demand yet difficult to find in retail stores as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell these items have sprung up online. But instead of receiving the promised masks and supplies, unsuspecting victims have seen their money disappear into the hands of the criminals involved. This is one of several types of financial fraud schemes connected to the ongoing global health crisis which have been reported to INTERPOL by authorities in its member countries.
CERT NZ has received reports of online criminals using the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic as an opportunity to carry out online scams and malicious cyber activity. Reports include opportunistic attempts to use the COVID-19 pandemic to trick people in to:
* Donating to a fake World Health Organisation COVID-19 Response Fund
* Paying a bitcoin ransom or risk their family being infected with COVID-19
* Downloading malware from COVID-19 maps, or
* Entering their details into phishing websites
Scammers are calling home phones and sending text messages to mobile phones, which contain misinformation or could leave you out of pocket if you fall victim.
Some calls and texts claim to be from the Government, your GP’s surgery, the NHS, or even the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In the calls, a recorded message or caller will claim to be contacting you about the coronavirus. They might offer a test for the virus, a treatment or cure, or might offer to discuss your medical needs.
However, these calls are designed to encourage you to either speak to an operator, or press a button on your phone for more information.
Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them. Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.
Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one.
U.S. Secret Service
Cyber criminals are exploiting the Coronavirus through the wide distribution of mass emails posing as legitimate medical and or health organizations. In one particular instance, victims have received an email purporting to be from a medical/health organization that included attachments supposedly containing pertinent information regarding the Coronavirus. This leads to either unsuspecting victims opening the attachment causing malware to infect their system, or prompting the victim to enter their email login credentials to access the information resulting in harvested login credentials. This type of incident enables further occurrences of cyber enabled financial crimes such as Business Email Compromise (BEC), PII theft, ransomware and account takeovers. Another side effect of the Coronavirus is increased teleworking, which furthers the reliance on email for communication adding yet another multiplier to these email fraud schemes. More of these incidents are expected, and increased vigilance regarding email communication is highly encouraged.