As we adjust to changes in how we work and live remotely during the COVID-19 situation, cyber criminals are also adjusting their tactics. To help individuals, including employers and their employees, we strongly encourage taking precautions in protecting yourself from fraud, specifically around the topic of COVID-19.
Here are five examples of fraud you may see happening today.
1. Phishing emails related to COVID-19
The rapid move of millions of people working remotely is attracting cyber-attacks around the globe. Exercise caution when opening all emails. Our security and fraud team at Alberta Blue Cross has made note of the following phishing email patterns we are seeing at this time:
- Work from home policy.
- Accounts payable.
- Online school assignments.
- Deals on medical equipment or supplies.
- Investment opportunities related to the outbreak.
- Software or apps that deliver live outbreak maps.
- Software or apps that promise methods to get rid of Coronavirus.
When staying alert for these phishing emails, avoid clicking on links or attachments in the email and providing personal or corporate information.
If you are noticing these emails on your work email accounts, we encourage you to report them to management immediately.
2. Text scams
In addition to phishing emails, cyber criminals are also sending unsolicited texts to individuals. Pay special attention to texts coming from unknown sources or phone numbers you are not familiar with especially about COVID-19 at this point in time.
3. Cell phone apps
Criminals also know that during a crisis everyone is looking for a way to get the latest information quickly—using apps in the app store is one way they are doing so.
Criminals leverage this and introduce malicious apps that are “ransomware”—malicious software that will lock up your phone and demand a payment to unlock.
Avoid downloading COVID related apps on your devices. The “COVID-19 Tracker” is one example that is rapidly being taken offline by app stores.
4. Identity theft
Increased numbers of identity theft are being reported across Alberta. Unfortunately, this is not a new scam as identity theft emerges during almost any major event such as a natural disaster, financial crisis and in this case, a pandemic.
In times of crisis, your organization or others that you regularly interact with may reach out to help support you, despite your trust in them, make sure you are vigilant about the information you provide.
- Be bold in asking identity verification questions.
- Do not enter any personal information in response to an unexpected or unconfirmed email—for example, criminals may impersonate your bank asking about payment deferrals or perhaps your landlord asking about rent deferrals.
- Take an extra moment to question any inquiries for personal or identity-related information.
5. Government programs and fake charities
Be wary of new charitable organizations asking for money to support people impacted by COVID-19. Cyber criminals have begun setting up fake charities, pretending to be the Canadian Red Cross or other well-known charities asking you to donate money. Although there are a number of legitimate organizations out there trying to help, there are just as many looking to take advantage of the unsuspecting.
To avoid this, ensure you are verifying information about the charity in question, including its name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity will provide information about its mission and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. To avoid misinformation, always take the time to research and understand who the legitimate authorities are.