How COVID Has Revived Online Scams

Cybersecurity experts reported a 400% increase in reported online scams in 2020 over the figures for 2019. Most of these are old scams, but more people are falling for them than ever before.

Here are three types of online scams that are seeing a resurgence and how you can protect yourself from them.


The SIM Card Swap

The “SIM card swap” scam is a common scam where scammers use personal information to convince your cell phone carrier that they are you. They then get the customer service provider to link your phone number to their SIM card instead of your phone.

If successful, scammers are then able to access to a host of sensitive information like credit cards and bank accounts and then “take control” of these accounts by resetting passwords, etc. For remote workers, this can be especially devastating when business accounts are compromised.

The Tech Support Scam

This is one of the most common and most successful scams on the market. Either a fake “tech support” employee calls you and tells you they represent a familiar electronics company and that they have found a virus or other problem in your computer, or a pop-up appears on your desktop telling you a problem has been found and you need to call a number and speak to tech support.  Once they have you on the phone, the scammers then convince you to give them remote access to your computers. They then use this access to steal valuable information or convince you to pay for the solution to the problem.

What has surprised cybersecurity experts is that this scam is not getting more common, but it is becoming more successful. In September 2020, a woman in Singapore was scammed out of $35,000 by a fake Microsoft tech support technician she called after getting a phony pop-up on her computer telling her she had a virus.

Typically, these scams only try to get people to pay a few hundred dollars for fake “anti-virus” software, but since the onset of COVID-19, these scammers have started to go for much larger amounts of money by gaining access to customers’ bank accounts.


The Text Scam

This is another old scam that has gotten a COVID update. With so many government health alerts and information coming to people via text message, scammers are taking advantage of people’s anxieties and uncertainty around the virus by sending them fake alerts warning them of a need for testing, telling them to check their recent test results, or even to check on their economic impact payments.

All of these include links that either allow malicious software to be downloaded to their device or send them to a website where the scammers can collect their sensitive personal information.


How is COVID Reviving These Scams?

A sudden shift to the remote work environment due to the onset of COVID-19 means that more people than ever conduct most of their work and free time through their phones and computers.

They also depend on these devices more than ever, so potential problems with them are likely to cause more panic than they did before.

This is an environment perfect for scammers. For a scam to work, they must contact thousands of people to get even one response, but with more people than ever online, there are more opportunities for them to “hit.”


How Can I Protect Myself from Online Scams?

Scammers rely on gaining access to at least your necessary personal information to run their scams. This includes your name, email address, phone number, and other information that can be easily obtained with little effort.

Your best defense against these scammers is making sure they can’t get access to your personal information that they can use against you. Working with an experienced IT professional can help you address any vulnerabilities you may have and coach you on protecting yourself from hackers and scammers using the best online practices.

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