Work-from-home scams could increase as COVID-19 spreads
Today there is a laser focus on the US-based and overseas crooks hunting a payday before the pandemic. You are a government cheater. You are a money launderer. They are scammers raising money for fake charities. They are wholesalers promoting counterfeit and even dangerous “cures” for a disease for which there is no approved cure.
“COVID was a curve ball this year that nobody expected, but it’s one of our top priorities right now,” says Brown.
The FBI is part of the Department of Justice. More than 3,600 complaints of COVID-19 fraud have been filed with the office Cybercrime Complaints Office from April 21, the department announced.
Brown said the experience of economic hardships during the Great Recession and past disasters like the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina helped law enforcement agencies predict what misdeeds might crop up during the ongoing global health crisis.
Trending scams include:
1. Phishing schemes
These are phone calls, text messages, or instructions on how to click a computer link. The aim is to steal money or personal information, or to infect computer devices with malware.
Be very careful what information you reveal during the pandemic, Brown says. Your data may not be exploited immediately – but after three, six, or twelve months – so don’t rely on a quick fraud alert from a bank or credit bureau, he says.
2. Home work programs
Scammers offer what they call a job opportunity, but the reality is that people who accept offers from malicious actors are used to launder the ill-gotten gains from criminal activity.
The crook might say, “I want you to open a bank account or make a deposit and all you have to do is make a wire transfer [money] somewhere else, ”says Brown. Don’t become an unsuspecting “money mule”.
3. Fraudulent charities and counterfeit organizations
Bad actors create them to rip people off. “Everyone has a strong heart and wants to help in the situation,” he observes.
4. Advance payment arrangements
Crooks lie and claim they have scarce products for sale. They ask for prepayment, but never deliver the goods. “Right now we’re seeing a lot of complaints,” says Brown.