Scammers are taking advantage of public fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to create a pandemic of their own. A Coronavirus scams pandemic. Phishing emails have been delivering fake news and playing on people’s compassion. They have also taken the form of advertising scams.
Types of Coronavirus Related Scams
Scammers seem to consider emergencies as a golden opportunity to launch attacks that cash in on people’s concerns. Scammers have wasted no time in trying to take advantage of people’s fears over the Coronavirus and of their feelings of compassion.
Recently COVID-19 related scams have risen sharply and have taken many forms. The following are examples of some of the tactics used by scammers to exploit public fear surrounding the virus.
Exploiting the public’s compassion
One type of coronavirus related phishing scam has used the crowd funding idea and targeted people’s compassion. For example, in one scam recipients have been asked to help fund the cost of vaccines for Chinese children. A vaccine that at this point in time does not even exist.
Victims of such phishing emails are asked to send bitcoin contributions to bitcoin wallets belonging to scammers. Although most people know that no vaccine is available and don’t fall for the scam, some recipients do become victims. When taken on a global scale, although the percentage of people fooled is small, this scam can nonetheless be financially attractive for scammers.
In another type of coronavirus phishing scam, attackers pretend to provide important updated information on COVID-19 or virus-related health advice. These fake news emails attempt to get the recipient to click on malicious links that typically install malware. Once installed, the malware can steal personal data such as banking details and login credentials. Clicking the malicious link could also install ransomware, which locks victims’ computers until they pay a ransom to the attackers.
The organizations that are being impersonated the most include health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Other health organizations being impersonated are the US’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Also being impersonated are reputable news providers such as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). In this scam, attackers pretend to report the latest news on the Coronavirus as a reputable news provider. In this scam, there are no victims as such. The scammers generate revenue from the advertising delivered on the site.
There are also COVID-19 phishing scams taking advantage of the excessive demand for certain goods that are hard to find. Goods like face masks and hand sanitizers are much sought after by the public to help ward off the virus. However, these items are in very limited supply with most shops, both physical and online, no longer having any in stock.
Scammers are taking advantage of this situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak. They are sending phishing emails in an attempt to fool recipients into thinking they can order these goods from them. What happens instead is that victims reveal personal and financial data to the scammers. According to Sky News, in February alone, fake face mask sellers cheated victims in the UK out of £800,000 (US $1 million).