Fraud Spreads as Does the Coronavirus: Steps to Take

Fraud

As more of the US workforce is being divided into essential and nonessential roles and businesses are transitioning to work-from-home positions, employers and employees alike have another rapidly growing problem to monitor – fraud. In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, fraudsters are taking advantage of the fear that has already been shown to induce panic-driven buying. So of course, selling vaccines and medical kits with masks “proven” to prevent catching COVID-19 would sellout quickly. In these uncertain times, can anyone be sure of what information is true? Maybe there really is a vaccine? Maybe the masks really do work?

“Add to Cart, BUY 10!” And just like that the fraudster has done three things:

  1. Taken your money
  2. Retained your credit card information for future use
  3. Spread false information to increase hysteria

What is Happening?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI are working to combat these scams, but it is anticipated that these fraudsters will multiply, as will their attempts to gain access to your information and your funds. [i] Some are now reporting door-to-door scammers, would-be robbers in white lab coats claiming to be from the health department [ii], fraudsters calling claiming to be offering refunds from the electric company, and robocalls offering any number of Coronavirus-related goods/services. While the elderly population is a clear, priority target [iii], this is not limited to consumers – fraud attempts on businesses are the rise, too [iv].

Businesses will need to be hyper-vigilant internally, sending reminders to employees on how to protect themselves and the business from fraud. As your workforce takes your business home with them, do they become more vulnerable to phishing attempts? In the comfort of their own home, amidst the fear and chaos, do your employees know what to do to protect themselves from such scams?

Employees with access to company funds – are they vulnerable? Could they be manipulated into paying doctored invoices, wiring funds directly to a scammer?

Employees with access to company data – are they vulnerable? Could they be manipulated into downloading spyware, malware or answering a fraudster’s questions over the phone, putting company’s data at risk?

Keep in mind, it may also be beneficial to share tips directly to your customers.

What to Do:

DOJ tips include [v]:

  • Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual contacting you
  • Check websites and email addresses of those offering information, products, or services. Scammers often use addresses that look similar to legitimate entities, for example using “cdc.com” instead of “cdc.gov.”
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment, or requesting personal information for medical purposes. “Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way,” the DOJ explains.
  • Don’t click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources to prevent downloading an (electronic) virus.
  • Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.
  • Ignore offers for vaccines, cure, or treatment as health authorities won’t be selling these.
  • Check online reviews of any company offering Coronavirus-related products or supplies and avoid those with complaints about not receiving items.
  • Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations.
  • Be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Don’t send money through any of these channels.
  • Be cautious of “investment opportunities,” especially those based on claims that a small company’s products or services can help stop the virus.

The FTC has a similar list of tips and wants you to be aware of the steps they’re taking to keep consumers safe from scammers.

If you’re concerned about the impact fraud may have on your business, let us know in the comments section below. The use of CallMiner’s software has been proven to help combat and successfully reduce fraud. And if you’ve already used CallMiner to stop fraudsters in their tracks, leave some tips & tricks below.