20 ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 & stimulus payment scams

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Photo by CDC on Unsplash

COVID-19 is a tragedy that is affecting nearly everyone. On the positive side, it has brought out the best in people. There are countless stories about people donating plasma, food, money, and much more. There are large groups of people using their 3D printers to make masks and other PPE for healthcare workers that are facing these critical supply shortages.

Sadly, scammers are out in force also. Ironically, they were quite quick to mobilize, often quicker than the relief groups. And it is not just COVID. Whenever there is a natural disaster, scammers often react before international aid arrives on-site.

To understand the scale of how scammers are using COVD and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a recent New York Times article notes that with trillions of dollars being distributed, it is a veritable gold mine for scammers. And over the last month, over 4,300 malicious domains were set up to take advantage of people looking for new forms of government support.

Brian Stack, VP dark web intelligence at Experian, notes that “the stimulus site is a little bit like ringing the dinner bell for hackers.” While Eva Velasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, said, “I’ve been in this space for over 30 years, and I have not seen anything like this in my entire career. The scope, the scale, the speed, and the efficiency of the scams is breathtaking”.

And it gets worse. The New York Police Department (NYPD) is on alert over a sick COVID-19 blackmail scheme where unsuspecting people are targeted online by scammers who threaten to infect their families with the coronavirus if they refuse to pay the fraudsters money. The NYPD document notes that the pandemic has created an environment ripe for fraudulent activity with threat actors leveraging fears of the virus to perpetrate a variety of malicious and criminal exploitation.

With that, here are 20 ways to protect yourself against COVID-19 and stimulus benefit scams:

  1. Follow all of the good security practices you are accustomed to. There are no new techniques with COVID scams. They are just using COVID as a means to deceive you. They are using old techniques via a new crisis.

I work in information security at Tapad. Write book reviews for the RSA blog, & a Founding member of the Cloud Security Alliance and Cybersecurity Canon.

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