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SCARS™ Coronavirus Scam Warning: A Social Disease – How Fraudsters Adapt Old Scams To Exploit The Coronavirus Crisis
According to the Guardian: Criminals Who Formerly Tried to ‘Sextort’ People Online are Now Making Threats to Infect a Target’s Family and Friends
You get an email that is immediately threatening.
“I know every dirty little secret about your life,” it begins. “To prove my point, tell me, does [ONE OF YOUR PASSWORDS] ring any bell to yοu? It was one οf your passwords.”
The message goes on to inform recipients that the sender knows where they live, to whom they talk and how they spend their days, before delivering the punchline:
“You need tο pay me $4,000. You’ll make the payment via bitcoin … If I do not get the payment: Ι will infect every member οf your family with the coronavirus.”
Welcome to the Underworld of Coronavirus COVID-19 Cybercrime!
Depending on your stance can be viewed either as the greatest public health and economic emergency for a century or a chance to scam a fortune from a captive market under effective house arrest worldwide.
A Variation on a Theme
These email threats are a variation of so-called “sextortion” scams – that blackmail with the threat of their X-rated photos being sent to their family and friends (inevitably, some will pay up).
Research has also found that the volume of coronavirus email scams nearly tripled in the past week, with almost 3% of all global spam now estimated to be Coronavirus COVID-19 related. Attackers are increasingly impersonating the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations, the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and other agencies as well.
Chester Wisniewski, a principal research scientist at SOPHOS said: “Cybercriminals are wasting no time in shifting their dirty, tried-and-true attack campaigns towards advantageous lures that prey on mounting virus fears. Criminals often dip a toe in the water when there is a new or sensational topic in the news.
“In one of the spam campaigns we tracked this week, there was evidence of exactly that … The main body of the email pretends to come from a WHO email address with ‘health advice’ in the attachment, but when we carefully inspect the plain text body, we see it matches a previous spam campaign from [a familiar] criminal.”
These email spam campaigns are typically designed to obtain individuals’ personal information, which can then be used by criminals to steal funds. However, the range of different scams is far wider than a few rogue emails.
Neil Tyson, the director of the consultancy Fraud Management Resource Centre in the United Kingdom, said: “Criminals will use the telephone, text messages, email, post or knock at the door. They will exploit all five of those. People will knock at doors selling fake test kits or fake cures. People will claim to be acting for the local authority, saying we need contact details in case of emergency. There are examples of that.”
Indeed, The Public is Simply Not Prepared for Such a Focused Attack During a Time of Extreme Emergency
We are seeing door to door scams on the rise too! People are encouraged not to open their doors to bogus healthcare workers claiming to be offering “home testing” for the coronavirus.
Its concerns have been mirrored at the banks around the world – where it is understood that they have been expecting a rise in fraud because of the COVID-19 pandemic for weeks – as well as by similar warnings from a range of world bodies including the Financial Conduct Authority, the National Cyber Security Centre, the National Crime Agency and Action Fraud in the U.K.; the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S.; and others around the world.
THE LATEST FIGURES FROM NORTH AMERICA AND EUROPE ALREADY SHOW LOSSES OVER USD$10 BILLION TO THESE SCAMS!
These figures do not include the cases that have gone unreported since we know that historically only a very small percentage of victims (3-5%) will report – but the majority of the recorded cases concern online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitizer and other products that have never arrived.
Other frauds being reported include:
- ticket fraud
- online dating fraud (romance scams)
- charity fraud
- lender loan fraud
- government check fraud
- medical device and cures scams
- friends and family emergency scams
Impersonation scams On The Rise
We have seen an increase in the typical romance scams or related emergency scams as well now. The Methods are the same but the scammers are switching to new emergencies that are based upon what is really happening to real people around the world: isolation, medical need, no money, and lack of food.
While these would not have been as believable just weeks ago, now it is impossible to know what is real.
The only solution is the simple “SCARS RULE”™ – if ANYONE asks you for money online – treat it as a scam.
Meaning that you can choose to donate when and where you want. But real organizations and celebrity appeals are always passive and generic. They are never person to person.
If anyone contacts you out of the blue online it is almost certainly a scam. Then if they ask or demand money – confirmed scam – regardless of their situation.
The lengths that some criminals will go to is proving quite extraordinary.
Last week, the U.K. Department for Education warned of a scam email asking parents of children eligible for free school meals for their bank details, for financial qualification so that their child could still receive meals during school closures.
Adam French of the consumer rights magazine Which? said: “This marks a new low in the abhorrent tactics we have seen fraudsters using to exploit the ongoing coronavirus crisis, which has unfortunately created the perfect breeding ground for scams.
“The best way for consumers to protect themselves is to remain vigilant and take extra precautions before clicking on any unsolicited emails, texts or answering calls. Make sure your computers, mobile phones and tablets are supported by the latest security updates, and consider installing antivirus software to minimise threats.”
COMBATTING CORONAVIRUS FRAUD
You need to be aware that criminals are attempting to exploit COVID-19 worldwide through a variety of scams. There have been reports of:
• Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
• Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
• Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
Criminals will likely continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide.
Aside from the frauds that are already in operation, others will undoubtedly emerge, as scams travel almost like a virus. Some fear that law-abiding people who have been plunged into financial difficulties because of the pandemic may also be tempted to try their luck.
A spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers warned: “Experience shows us that – in times of austerity – insurance fraud (along with many other forms of fraud) tends to increase. This may lead to individuals – and owners of failing businesses – being tempted to commit fraud.
“We are also aware of several insurance scams that are beginning to emerge in the U.S., including … bogus COVID-19 health insurance scams – where scammers are pitching low-cost health insurance, promising full coverage at affordable prices.”
Warning To Everyone
If you get an email – regardless of the threat or the offer: relax, it is just a scam! Simply report it to your national police, FBI, FTC, ActionFraud, Europol, ScamWatch, etc.
If you are contacted by a stranger online – there are two approaches:
- If it is someone you possibly know or used to know – confirm with mutual friends if it really is the person you think it is. Scammers copy your friends and family’s profiles to try to scam you.
- If it is someone you do not know – do not respond!
In the case of all online scams, fake profiles, or other scammers report them to www.Anyscam.com and to your national police!
Avoid Coronavirus Scams
Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers out of your life:
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus.
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the WHO (World Health Organization) or experts saying they have information about the virus.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
- If you are threatened in an email or phone call – contact your local police immediately, then report it to your national police – FBI, FTC, etc.
- Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
- Visit the FDA to learn more about real cures and treatments.
- For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Watch the news for the agencies that are working in your country to help you and only go to official government sites. Always be careful about links and typing in a link – scammers create fake websites that are misspells of the real website domain name. Ask a friend for help if you need it on this!
REPORTING CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 SCAMS
Coronavirus COVID-19 scams are a different animal and our national governments are truly mobilized to stop them as fast as they can.
For the first time in our war against scams, we are now truly on a war-time footing and national governments are treating these scams as just as much of a threat as the virus itself. They are taking them seriously and because other forms of crimes are vastly reduced due to quarantine or home isolation – we have the full global law enforcement available to intercept cybercriminals and scammers!
REPORTING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
To report all scams and online fraud in the United Kingdom go to Action Fraud’s website here: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ »
REPORTING IN THE UNITED STATES
The Department of Justice is remaining vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis. In a memo to U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General Barr said, “The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated.”
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving the Coronavirus COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home through a number of platforms. Go to:
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Report it to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov