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Scammers are Using COVID-19 to Target Everyone, TriNet Finds

COVID-19 has not stopped malicious individuals from taking advantage of difficult times to prey on…

  • April 13, 2020

COVID-19 has not stopped malicious individuals from taking advantage of difficult times to prey on vulnerable individuals. Unfortunately, numerous scams have appeared to defraud businesses and individuals in connection with COVID-19.

The global pandemic has caused enough headache and heartache for everyone, including small and medium size businesses (SMBs) and their employees. TriNet, a provider of human resources, said it is committed to helping its 18,000 SMB customers better navigate through these unprecedented times.

To help vulnerable businesses avoid additional havoc from online fraudsters, TriNet has listed six essential steps for SMBs and their employees to help recognize and prevent online scams that use the Coronavirus as bait:

If an email sender is unknown, leave it alone: The worldwide spread of the new Coronavirus is being used by attackers against businesses and individuals in phishing scams designed to scare people into clicking on links, opening malicious attachments, or giving out confidential information.

Be careful with anything related to the Coronavirus: emails, attachments, social media, and texts on your phone. Look out for possible subjects, warnings and requests like:

  • COVID-19 business loan – prequalified
  • COVID-19 stimulus packages available now
  • COVID-19 Confirm your business banking information
  • Coronavirus infection warnings from your county
  • Fake CDC or World Health Organization emails
  • Alerts on keeping your children safe from Coronavirus

While some of these pieces of content may be factual, there will be a number of scams related that seem legitimate but aren’t. SMBs should remind employees not to respond to messages like this – and don’t download anything or click on links in unsolicited emails.  Always remember to think before you click.

Use your voicemail – don’t answer unknown callers: Human social engineering scammers will take to the phone lines and use COVID-19 as a topic to pull on heart strings and manipulate SMBs and their employees into giving out confidential information.

  • A common scam is a phone call or an email purporting to be from a hospital that has treated a relative for COVID-19 and demanding payment for treatment.
  • Scammers are also calling to solicit donations for businesses, individuals, groups and areas affected by COVID-19.
  • Always make sure to validate the person on the other end of the phone and avoid making any payments over the phone to someone you don’t know.

Remember: There’s no known cure (yet): Scammers are offering to sell fake COVID-19 testing kits, cures and vaccines. Make sure you only deal with licensed medical professionals. If there is a medical breakthrough with a cure you won’t first hear about it through an email.

When shopping, use known brands and stores: Online shopping and business scams occur when scammers create fake online stores, websites, social media accounts and email addresses where they claim to sell products that are currently in high demand, such as surgical masks, toilet paper, cleaning products and food. Always be sure you are dealing with reputable stores before making any purchases. Order from websites you already know and trust.

Click a link only after you’ve had a think: Scammers are using COVID-19 emails to lure employees into downloading malware on their corporate devices.

This can compromise your business network, an employee or customer’s personal information and the device itself.  Employees should be reminded to never click links or open attachments from an unknown source. Ensure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.

Investment opportunity? Or profiteering scam option? A recent Investor Alert from the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy warns of internet promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect or cure Coronavirus, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

The alert cautions that these promotions often take the form of so-called “research reports” and make predictions of a specific “target price.”

Investors are urged to be wary of these promotions and to be aware of the substantial potential for fraud at this time. Don’t be fooled by too-good-to-be-true investment opportunities tied to COVID-19. As with any investing you decide to do, be sure you are thoroughly doing your research and speak with a financial or stock professional if you have one.