Authorities report millions in losses from COVID-19 scams

Millions of dollars stolen from citizens and business across USA and UK

Cybercriminals adapt well-known fraud schemes to take advantage of coronavirus pandemic. Citizens, public organizations, and businesses have already experienced millions of losses from COVID-19-related scams. This week FBI reported a never-seen-before spike in cybercrime, especially those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The statistics outlined by Internet Crime Complaint Centre revealed that the numbers of attacks initiated via email messages and fake websites have quadrupled from 1,000 reports before the pandemic to 4,000.

The newly established Action Fraud center run by the City of London Police and working alongside the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) echoes the FBI and claims that coronavirus scams keep evolving. At the moment, there are 862 known scam variants across the UK only, and this number is steadily increasing.

However, the statistics are not precise, as thousands of victims did not report being scammed or otherwise deceived.

The amount of money lured is even more impressive

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the organization protecting America’s consumers, 18,235 COVID-19-related scam reports have been received from the consumers across the USA. The total losses exceed $13.4 million, and that’s an official number resulting from know and confirmed extortion cases.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Action Fraud center revealed that total losses extorted by criminals from UK citizens reach £2,120,870.

Seeing an unprecedented outbreak of pandemic-related scams and other fraudulent activities, the European Commission and other consumer protection authorities across the world have started strengthening the forces against the criminals and launched many joint measures. Having in mind that police are working hard to detect and stop malicious cyber activities; the only working solution is to raise people’s consciousness about various schemes that criminals exploit. As the Interpol’s Secretary-General Jürgen Stock said:

“Criminals are exploiting the fear and uncertainty created by COVID-19 to prey on innocent citizens who are only looking to protect their health and that of their loved ones.”

Besides, he added:

“Anyone who is thinking of buying medical supplies online should take a moment and verify that you are, in fact, dealing with a legitimate, reputable company; otherwise, your money could be lost to unscrupulous criminals.”

COVID-19-themed cyber crimes vary from bogus websites to healthcare fundraising scams

While many scams and cybercrime leveraging COVID-19 outbreak have been identified and made public, it’s probably not possible to describe thousands of the cases separately. Therefore, Interpol has singled out four main types of coronavirus scams – fake applications, rogue websites, phony investment opportunities, and fundraising campaigns. The malicious scam email campaigns spreading malware should also be added to the list.

According to cybersecurity experts, there is quite a long list of fake apps offering a live COVID-19 spread tracking feature. Suchlike apps, once downloaded, can unravel malware to the system or display fake ads and disinformation. The same applies to the websites dedicated to supposed COVID-19 news, which may trick visitors into creating accounts and participating in various hidden phishing affairs.

Nevertheless, the trickiest coronavirus scam type is the one that reaches people via emails. Criminals spread well-prepared emails impersonating healthcare institutions (e.g. RedCross email scam), charity organizations, steal signatures of the cheerleaders, and similar. Such email contains malicious links that are supposed to open official news, issues laws, or infected attachments represented as tips on how to prevent coronavirus infection, the latest finding on how to cure the disease, and so on. However, the malicious content inside such emails usually leads to the infiltration of malware. Based on cybersecurity reports, the disease-related scams are currently actively spreading these viruses:

  • BlackNET malware
  • Netwalker ransomware
  • Zeus Sphinx Trojan
  • Coronavirus ransomware
  • Emotet virus, etc.

Therefore, to protect your family, your privacy, and property, stay away from any content online that raises suspicions. Double-check the sender or news provider and report malicious activity to the nearest authoritative organization in your country.

Posted in support.