Pratum Blog

When COVID-19 first started making headlines, there were a few scams being reported from around the world. While many were focused at the Coronavirus-epicenter, China, the virus and scams are spreading throughout the world.

Many of these scams are phishing scams. Meaning, they are ways for criminals to collect your private information or access to your personal devices. Falling victim to these sorts of crimes can be common during a crisis, when people are not thinking clearly. That’s why it’s good to stay informed and aware of what is out there. Here are some online threats making the rounds you should be aware of!

Anti-Virus Software

One scam being reported is for anti-virus software, but it’s not the kind you probably think of right away. This particular scam is preying on individuals who may not understand what the Coronavirus is or how it works. The website actually makes this absurd claim:

“Our scientists from Harvard University have been working on a special AI development to combat the virus using a windows app. Your PC actively protects you against the Coronaviruses (Cov) while the app is running.” (Source Malwarebytes)

Not only is this scientifically inaccurate, it’s a dangerous site to pursue. Once you download the advertised software, a fake app would be installed and infect your device; allowing the threat actors full access and control.

Free Stuff

Another scam preying on people’s fears right now offers a free “Corona mask” in exchange for the download of an app on your smartphone. The app then demands the right to read your contacts and send SMS messages. After the app is downloaded, you are asked to fill out personal information to be sent the free mask.

While the security experts who discovered and tested this app were not able to submit information, there is reason to believe that personal data would be used for further scams.

Nonetheless, the app accessing contacts and sending out messages was able to spread the virus even more.

Another popular scam claims to be from Netflix and promises free subscriptions to help people get through social isolation/distancing time. The site will ask visitors some questions and then tell the “winner” of the free subscription to share the fraudulent site with 10 friends.

This sort of scam can lead to the scammers requesting more personal information down the road and then using that information to infiltrate your device or private accounts online. If you get this scam from a friend, let them know their account has been hacked!

Census Form

There have been several scams surrounding the U.S. Census this year. One in particular is directed at those looking for federal funds. A news station in Ohio, WOIO, was alerted of a scam in which a man received a Facebook message from a relative telling him to fill out his Census form with a special link in order to get the COVID-19 stimulus money directly deposited into his account. This was reportedly the same money already promised to be coming from the U.S. government in the coming weeks.

These scammers had actually hacked into the other person’s account to send out this dangerous message. The big red flag here is, there is no connection between the stimulus funds and the Census. This is also another good reminder for people to change their passwords frequently, so their accounts are not used to scam loved ones online.

Threats of Infection

Not only are these scams a risk to your online security; some go so far as to threaten your physical health. Barracuda discovered one scam in which the threat actor requested ransom payments, or else the scammer would infect the recipient and their family with Coronavirus.

According to Barracuda researchers, there are three main types of phishing scams related to the Coronavirus: 54 percent were scams, 34 percent were brand impersonation attacks, 11 percent were blackmail, and 1 percent are business email compromise.

Ways to Stay Safe

Some of these scams may seem so obvious, you may not believe anyone would fall victim to them. However, when fear and unprecedented events are occurring it can be difficult for people to think clearly. That’s why it’s so important to stay vigilant during this time with your cybersecurity.

1. Check the source. While you may think the email or website is legitimate because it has a similar name as the original, you need to be sure to read all the fine print. With the Netflix scam mentioned above, the scam website had “Netflix” in the title but was a .net address. Details like this can make a huge difference.

2. Question strangers. If an email or message comes from a source you normally do not communicate with, be leery of them. If you have concerns about ignoring something potentially legitimate, try finding the contact information for who they claim to be somewhere else.

3. Stay educated. Be aware of what scams are making the rounds right now. Having a good knowledge of threats helps keep them at the front of your mind. The more aware you are, the less likely you’ll fall victim to a scam!

If you’d like to learn about more COVID-19 scams making the rounds right now, head over to the links listed below!


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