According to the FTC’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book” the most common categories for fraud complaints last year were imposter scams, debt collection and identity theft. Credit card fraud was most prevalent in identity theft cases — more than 167,000 people reported a fraudulent credit card account was opened with their information. However, as the threat of COVID-19 increases, cybercriminals are targeting employees who are working from home. The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers to be wary of cybercriminals exploiting coronavirus fears to steal personally identifiable information (PII). Financial information and medical information is especially sensitive right now.
Cybersecurity and COVID-19: Fraudsters are creating scam posts and emails with fake information about COVID-19 – there is also an increased number of hackers creating malicious websites that spoof legitimate public health resources. For example, a link that seems like it should lead you to a map of “COVID-19 cases near me” might actually infect your phone or computer with spyware or ransomware. Remember to visit the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) or World Health Organization (www.who.int) for accurate, safe information about coronavirus trends and statistics.
Increasingly common COVID-19 scams so far in 2020 include:
- Fraudulent e-commerce vendors for masks, sanitizers and test kits
- Fraudulent investment sites
- Phishing and vishing through update emails, texts and voicemails
- Spoofed government and health organization communications
- Fake vaccines or “miracle cures”
- Scam employment posts
- Phony charity donation offers
5 cybersecurity tips for working from home
Since so many Americans are settling into their work-from-home routines, we asked ConsumerAffairs’ Information Security team for some tips to stay safe online. For more on how to keep your devices safe while social distancing or sheltering in place, ConsumerAffairs’ Information Security team recommends visiting sans.org and staysafeonline.org.
- Secure your home network: Strong passwords and encryption are the best ways to secure your home network. Change your default administrator password before a hacker discovers the manufacturer’s default. Use WPA2 or WPA3 encryption so hackers can’t read information you send. For more guidance, read about securing your wireless network.
- Limit access to your work device: Avoid giving anyone an opportunity to view confidential material without your authorization. Be sure to shut down or lock your work computer when you aren’t around. It’s too easy for friends and family to erase, modify or infect information on your device accidentally.
- Careful where you click: Always hover over links before you click to make sure the hyperlink is the same as the link-to address. Be extra cautious about emails from unknown people — especially if they seem random, illogical or threatening.
- Be skeptical of job offers: Cybercriminals use bogus employment posts to trick people into money laundering schemes (“money mules”) and collect their PII or financial information. Remote freelancers could be especially vulnerable.
- Protect your devices: If you haven’t already, make sure that your anti-virus and anti-malware software is up to date.