Even in the midst of a crisis, fraudsters are not slowing down, instead, they are finding new ways to use the COVID-19 pandemic to their advantage. As businesses and people become increasingly more concerned about the economic situation, fraudsters are using this confusion and desperation to trick companies and people to steal their money and/or information.
It is important to be extra vigilant of the communications and messages you receive before taking action, especially when the request involves providing sensitive information or allowing access to personal platforms. While the fraudster may appear sympathetic in relation to COVID-19, their indentations are far from caring.
One approach fraudsters are taking is impersonating merchant processing companies or similar businesses. They might indicate that your merchant processing partner is no longer processing payments as a result of COVID-19 and recommends you switch to this ‘new’ option, also known as the fraudster’s wallet. They are targeting businesses who process payments and convincing them that their current system is not working or it needs to be updated or there is a special deal, etc, the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Yet, that does not mean they need to be successful.
We have outlined some common fraud patterns below so you can be aware and prepared for if or when you encounter a scam. Remember, if it appears untrustworthy, it is best to check with a reliable source, such as calling or cross-referencing with the company directly, before taking any action.
1. Emails Scams
Email has enabled fraudsters to maximize their scam since they are able to reach thousands of people within a short amount of time and with minimal effort. Yet, they are often warning signs to look out for that will indicate if the email is a potential scam.
- The email has a broad introduction instead of your personal name, for example, it is addressed to “Dear Sir”
- There are spelling and grammar errors throughout the email
- There is an urgency for you to take the action now
- The email address does not appear to be from the business
- It includes suspicious hyperlinks (Avoid clicking these links)
2. Phone Scams
Phone scams have been around for seemingly forever, and with the use of automated calls, the process is getting much easier for fraudsters. Yet, there are still ways to identify if the phone call is a scam to keep yourself protected. The following points are some warning signs of phone scams.
- Calls from people claiming to work from a financial institute or company and you had not expected to receive a call from them- These companies rarely contact you first unless you had contacted them first
- The caller requests any credit card information, for example, the three-digit CVV code
- As mentioned, if it is an automated call that requests private data
3. Text Message Scams
In addition to calls, text messages are another form of communication fraudsters may use to trick people. A few indicators of a text message scam include:
- The text(s) include misspelled words or grammar errors
- The attached URL appears suspicious or does not match the name of the financial institute
- The message requests you to verify your account or a transaction by providing your pin number or three-digit CVV code
4. Social Media Scams
Social media has offered a whole new gateway for fraudsters to manipulate victims given the amount of information people are willing to share on the platforms. While social media is a fantastic place to connect with family and friends, it also a space of vulnerability. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how fraudsters may target social media.
- You receive a friend or follow request from an unknown person
- You are prompted to click a link that requests personal information
- You receive a direct message from an unknown account offering a “can’t miss” opportunity