It’s an especially sensitive and vulnerable time right now due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, and cybercriminals are certainly taking advantage of people’s distraught state. There’s plenty of news already on some of the schemes that have been cooked up to rob people of their money, data and personal information during the crisis.
For example, you may receive phone calls from “hospital officials” or even “friends” asking for money transfers, claiming they’re in desperate need during this outbreak. It’s important to be skeptical, however, as these are often fraudsters trying to take advantage of you. This is just one example. New tactics are being made up every day, making it difficult for most of us to keep up. That’s why we’re outlining a few things to keep in mind to help keep you from falling victim to fraud during an already challenging time.
Don’t open suspicious links or attachments
There are plenty of bogus phishing emails and SMS messages going around offering help from local governments during the crisis, free consumer products, free school meals, maps to track spreading or even Coronavirus cures (remember that there is currently no approved vaccine or treatment for Covid-19).
These may seem like they’re coming from official authorities such as national or global health organisations. But no matter how legitimate an email or text may seem, never forget that emails and phone numbers can be spoofed. Therefore, it’s best not to open any links or attachments as they can contain malware. Instead, visit the official websites or social media pages of your local government and authorities for real information and to keep up to date. For example, the WHO has launched a free WhatsApp service to offer verified information and advice.
Be extra careful when purchasing online
Scam artists take advantage of people in desperate times. If you’re looking online for items that are quickly disappearing off of supermarket shelves (such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser, cleaning wipes, soap, food, etc.), pay attention to who and where you’re buying from.
There are many fake shops, websites and social media pages popping up online claiming to sell these in-demand items. Make sure you’re shopping from trusted and reputable retailers only and using their secure payment websites or check out with PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Pay (and avoid bank transfer buying). It’s also a good idea to have a look at customer reviews and testimonials before any purchase, and avoid anything that looks overpriced.
Watch out for fraudulent fundraising scams
Fraudsters will also take advantage of people’s charitable spirit and goodwill during times like these. They’ll spam you with fake emails, texts, phone calls and even crowdfunding pages (which are particularly popular on social media sites) asking for your contributions to help during the outbreak. They might even say they’re working or collecting on behalf of the government or a reputable health organisation.
But be sure to look closely at who and what you’re donating to. Don’t enter any personal card details or information on any website you’re unsure of. If you wish to give during these trying times, make donations to official funds such as the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund or local non-profit organisations you know and trust.
Consider the source
If you’re looking up information online related to Covid-19, beware of the websites you’re visiting. There have been many malicious domains set up which contain malware and viruses to infect and steal information off your computers. Check all the links and watch for any typos or weird misspellings as these can all be indicators of a phony site. Once again, make sure you’re only visiting official authority and government websites when seeking the latest news and developments on Coronavirus.
If you do fall victim to a scam, remember to do your best to stay calm. If you believe your Monese card or account have been compromised, lock your card as soon as you can. This will help to avoid any further fraudulent use of your card or information. Then get in touch with our Support team at firstname.lastname@example.org to report your situation. We’ll let you know how we’re able to help. We’ll always advise you on the best steps to take depending on your problem. You should also report it to the official authority - typically each country has its own agency for reporting cybercrime or fraud.
Remember: be vigilant, skeptical and stay safe!
31 March update: Here's how to make sure you’re really talking to us, including official pages and other things to check for when talking to our team.