The last seven months have been a scary rollercoaster ride. On top of COVID-19 becoming a global health crisis, and the ensuing economic and political impact, cyber criminals are having a field day taking advantage of the pandemic.
From petty scams to full-on cyber-attacks, the threat landscape has evolved to accommodate a wave of coronavirus-related schemes to defraud the public.
A new report released by UK’s top lobbying body for the financial sector has revealed the top 10 scams used by fraud groups to exploit current events and uncertainties regarding COVID-19. While some fraudulent attempts seek to manipulate victims into investing in bogus business opportunities, some callously exploit the financial hardship and need for information expressed by citizens.
According to UK Finance, the crème-de-la-crème of these swindles can be separated into three major categories, including financial support scams, health and lockdown scams:
Financial support scams
1. Fraudsters impersonating the government sent out e-mails offering grants of up to £7,500 to recipients. However, the email urges victims to click on a link and fill out their personal and financial data. This information is used in various forms of online fraud
2. Similarly, criminals sent out emails encouraging targets to fill in a form using their personal identifiable to access ”Covid-19 relief funds”
3. The ‘council tax reduction’ ruse also impersonates official government institutions. In this e-mail scam, victims are sent a link that redirects users to a fake government website where they are asked to provide personal and financial information
4. Applicants for Universal Credit are targeted by fraudsters who offer their help in return for a fee
5. Criminals leveraging the NHS Test and Trace service sent out phishing emails and malicious links claiming that recipients have been in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Users who fall victim to this ruse have their personal and financial information stolen, and in many cases, their devices are infected with malware
6. Internet users have also been targeted by fake ads for sanitary products and coronavirus protective gear
7. Fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing have been sent out by fraudsters, claiming that individuals are eligible for six months of free TV license due to the coronavirus pandemic. In an attempt to steal personal and financial information, victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit card, and are asked to access a webpage
8. Online TV subscription services were in high demand during the lockdown. As such, cyber-criminals have targeted customers with convincing emails asking them to update payment information by clicking on a fake link. Instead of having their online subscriptions renewed, recipients had their credit card information stolen
9. Online dating apps and websites were also popular during the stay-at-home order. Many criminals created fake profiles on social media, manipulating their love interests into wiring money.
10. Fake investment opportunities encouraged users to “take advantage of the financial downturn” by investing their hard-earned money in fake investment companies