“Coronavirus” has become the most searched keyword today. Hundreds and thousands of websites attest to this observation. Unfortunately, up to 50% of these instant sources of information are phishing attacks; reveal studies.
Scammers ride on the popularity of coronavirus-related searches. They use it to design websites to steal your data through emails and other means. Malware, ransomware…The modes of stealing personal information are numerous. The former gets into your device as email attachments or through click-baits. The latter gets distributed through mobile apps.
A few days back, thousands of everyday Internet users and people working from home received a tempting offer. It was a free Netflix subscription that would last till the end of the lockdown. Those interested had only to click an attachment, fill a survey and forward it to ten people on Whatsapp.
Those who took up the offer were sure to regret it. It was a fishing attack; a scam meant to steal personal information.
As you know, the Coronavirus is wreaking havoc all over the world. Something similar seems to be happening on the world wide web. For scammers, this is a golden opportunity to realize their sinister goals. Users receive emails that appear to be from WHOM, ICMR or UN. They may take even the names of giants in the corporate world like Microsoft. These emails combined with secure-looking websites trick users into revealing their personal information. Cyber thieves use the following for that purpose:
• Latest information on COVID19
• Listings of Precautionary measures against the virus
They even sell fake medications, masks and other safety equipment to attract users. Some advertise work from home offers. Scammers on social media may announce funding ventures for the victims of the disease. Still others may come up with requests for investments for firms that manufacture safety equipment for the same.
Strategies are aplenty. But the mode of operation always remains the same. Scammers drop malware into devices through emails or attachments. Or they disguise ransomware as mobile apps and circulate them among mobile devices.
How they work
The malware or ransomware get access to your device. They are designed to steal your personal information; passwords, login information for your bank accounts and credit card data. Some may even copy whatever you type on the keypad. When the device gets infected, you lose access to it. Quite naturally, you lose your valuable data.
Below are a few scams aimed at work from home professionals and other Internet users :-
1. Coronavirus-related phishing attacks
Experts advise users to be wary of all coronavirus-related emails. These may claim to offer latest news on the pandemic. Some may even offer downloadable guides to ward off the infection. Don’t trust them; don’t even think of downloading such attachments.
Your source of coronavirus-related information and about the lockdown is Government-approved trusts and organizations.
Experts advise utmost caution even for emails that come from these sources.
Last month, a cyber security firm found out a particular phishing attack. It came in the guise of the World Health Organization.
The email had the link to a cloned official WHO website. It had another requirement; users should type in their passwords. Remember, no public organization will ask users for their passwords.
Another such attack was targeted at Italy. As you know, that is the country the pandemic affected most. And it’s still the place where the death toll is the highest.
The email was from an Italian. This required that users download a word document. The file contained a Trojan designed for stealing personal information. The file, when downloaded, encrypts all the files on your computer. This locks you out until you pay a ransom to get back in.
Certain hackers even make use of macros for the purpose. Macros are small pieces of code that Microsoft relies upon. The threat grew to such severity that the company took measures to protect its customers by disabling macros on all its applications.
Expert cyber thieves, however, tempt users. They disable Microsoft’s security mechanism and fall into the trap. When they enable macros, hackers encrypt the files on their computers.
In a similar attempt, hackers sent macro-embedded attachments. They disguised it as information on safety measures to protect people from the pandemic.
Cyber criminals may even take advantage of your goodwill. You may receive emails asking for donations to help less fortunate fellow beings. Before opening up your wallet, see to it that your donation does not end up in the bank accounts of predators.
Search for the recommended organization on reputed websites. There are sure to be hundreds if not thousands of them. Make sure that your choice organization is registered with the Government. It should also have a good reputation in its own field.
There are also advertisers offering home cures for the pandemic. A Facebook group may spring up. It will have a few know-it-all people claiming to be health experts. They may post long write ups on the pandemic. Read a bit and you will realize one thing. They are there to taunt a particular audience.
Be wary of any group that doesn’t have a specific description on its “about” section. Be alert for news from official websites designed for the purpose.
2. Phishing attacks targeting remote workers
Work from home professionals and students are the ones who suffer most from the nefarious plans of such cyber criminals. Following are the most common among them:
• Ad posting jobs: These are perhaps the most popular among work from home job offers. You post certain number of ads. And the company pays you based on the number of ads you posted. The ads will look something like:
“$600/month just by posting ads!” If done right, you can even quit your day-job.
How the scam works
You get an offer from a purportedly reputed company. It says, you will get $20 for posting an ad and handling people’s responses. The offer sounds amazing! You can become a millionaire within a year. But there is a catch. You have to pay a nominal fee; $50 or so to begin with.
The amount appears small and you take up the offer. The payment is meant for training and other stuff. You wait and wait; nothing comes out of it.
If you have a job during this lockdown, you are one among the fortunate few. Don’t even think of quitting.
• Job as administrator assistant: Here, scammers make use of job portals. They collect your personal information like emails. And they contact you promising jobs as administrative assistants.
How it works
You receive a job requirement; a firm needs part-time administrator assistants. The pay-scale is in the range of $500-600 a day. The offer appears tempting. You sign up for it. Here too, there is a catch. You need to pay for training and other materials.
The amount required is $200. That will seem like a small amount compared to the profits you are promised from the job. And you take it up. All you receive is a dozen copy-pasted articles on how to succeed as an administrator assistant. The articles, according to them, justify the payment they received. You keep on waiting for the actual job; nothing happens.
Certain scammers may even ask for your personal information. And that may lead to identity thefts.
• Amazon work-from-home jobs: Amazon is one among the largest employers in the world. Within a short time, it reached that milestone; 700,000+. The company has a specialized recruitment department. It takes care of thousands of job prospects every day.
This promise of overnight success has led to a rise in scams. Here, the scammer creates the impression that there is a new job. And it will start next month. The payment is $20 per hour.
They ask you to apply for the job. You oblige. Afterwards, they inform you that you are chosen for the job. They even congratulate you. However, you need to pay a certain amount as fee. This is for the enrollment kit that will make the job easier. You buy it and wait in vain.
• Job as a regional sales representative: A scammer here posts jobs on job portals. People looking for regional sales representative jobs sign up. The moment you apply for the job, you are one among them. You fill up the application form and submit.
The moment you submit the form, you are in. All you need to do is to sell products. They can be anything; from gadgets to energy drinks. Every sale earns you a 10% commission. You calculate your monthly earnings and are thrilled. The entire thing is free; you are quite happy.
Shortly, you receive an order of $15,000. You just have to close the deal. Your commission here is $1,500. The deal closes. You get the money.
The entire price comes to your bank account as check. You can take $1,500 and send the rest. The check, however, is fake. It bounces back. And you become responsible for the money. And you will have to pay the entire amount to come out of the trap.
• Completing paid surveys: Do you surf online? If yes, you are sure to see these ads. The disaster happens only if you decide to accept such an offer.
The advertiser posts jobs requiring people willing to complete paid surveys. They will give you access to their database. And you will have to complete a fixed number of surveys to get paid. The payment may come up to hundreds of dollars. And it is sure to excite you.
This too, however, comes with a catch. You have to pay a nominal amount as membership fee. It may range from $30 to $70. You pay it and the company disappears with the money.
It never responds to your emails or takes your call. Same is the result even if you try their business phone. The phone numbers are fake. They are there to create an impression of being legit.
• Pyramid marketing schemes: Here, the scammer introduces himself. He will tell you that it is his job to help you succeed. The person is looking for bright minds to help them out.
He has done the entire job. And he will pass on to you the fruits of his labor. If you join, you will get an autopilot machine. All you have to do is to turn it on and watch the money pour in. You wait and watch for days, weeks and months; nothing happens.
• Data entry job scam: The scammer posts requirements for applicants for data entry jobs. The person, if selected, will get paid for entering data. All he has to do is to fill up certain number of forms on a company website. Some may ask for payment for tests and training. Others may not ask. Whatever is the strategy, the modus operandi is the same. They are there to steal credit card information or perform identity theft.
• Stuffing envelopes scam: “All that glitters is not gold.” If you feel the opposite, scammers will teach you that. The scammer promises easy money. You don’t need to post ads. You don’t have to advertise anything. Everything is free; postage and circulation. Upon completing the formalities, you just have to wait for the money. Certain fraudsters may even promise advance payment.
• Wire transfer scams: This scammer’s business is to export goods overseas. He has several small export contracts with him. But he doesn’t have the time to receive payment. The victim is requested to accept payment in his country.
• Rebate processor scam: Here, the victim just has to fill up certain forms that the scammer provides. You will receive payment for every form submitted. Upon submission, all you need to do is to wait for payment. The unsuspecting user waits and waits; nothing comes out of his efforts.
• Fake URLs: These types of scams are there to trap job seekers. The fraudster duplicates the official websites of reputed firms. The candidate applies for the job posting they see. Remember, if an offer is too good to be true, it is. Don’t fall for it. There exists no shortcuts to becoming a millionaire.
• Assembling or craft work at home: The victim will buy equipment from the company. He will then assemble the products the company requires. It will buy the things from you. You spend tons of money to acquire the equipment and other items for the task. But the company never buys anything from you.
• Medical billing remote work: The scammer offers you free business advice. Health care sector is under immense pressure. This is a golden opportunity for you to become a millionaire. All you have to do is to offer services like electronic billing or accounting. The company will give you the training and the software required for the price of $3000-9000. They, however, promise no business. There may be those who are able to be on their own after the training. But it is quite rare.
• Reading books for money: The scammer here gives you a list of publishers. They are willing to pay for your reviews of the books you’ve read. You may even have to buy the list.
You take up the offer. You read as many as possible and review them sincerely. Within a few days, you realize that your efforts were in vain. You never get paid.
There are publishers willing to pay for reviews. They, however, practice utmost caution when advertising. They make sure that they don’t receive any spam calls or unprofessional resumes. Besides, you don’t need to buy the list of books to read. They are there on the Internet for free.
• $6 chain letter scam: If you receive any such letter, run away from it. The letter is a promise of thousands of dollars at the cost of $6. Remember, such a system never works. And it is illegal. No company will ask you to pay for you to work for it.
• Correspondence manager job scam: Scams of this kind appear in a variety of styles and designs. A company may require correspondence manager, shipping and receiving manager, quality controller, or a mailing assistant. The applicant doesn’t need any particular qualification. A high school diploma will work fine. All it requires is a high-speed Internet and 9-5 availability. You don’t even need prior experience to work with the firm.
If accepted, you will become the sales representative of an offshore firm. You are there to help it possess the goods being sent to your place.
You have to reship them to the place the company asks. The prospect is definitely appealing. And the great thing is that you will even receive money in your account for the process.
How it works
The scammer buys goods using stolen money. He gets it by stealing credit card information from unsuspecting victims that fall into his trap.
The thief then sends the items to the owner’s address. This they do, because the address in the credit card has to match the owner’s address.
He then calls the victim posing as a shipping representative. He will tell him that an order has been sent to him in error. The victim will be requested to allow them to send a courier to take it. The person agrees without knowing that the scammer bought the item with his own money.
You go there. You are the company’s shipping representative. You accept the order and resend it to the place mentioned in your assignment.
Take up jobs like this after in-depth research on your choice company. Negligence here will bring FBI to your home.
• Typing job from home scam: The theft here is targeted at those who type a lot. You receive ads like “opportunity to make money with your computer or chance to make money online” To get in, you will need to pay a registration fee.
The company then sends detailed instructions with the promise of training. There are also those who don’t send anything. They just run away with your money.
If at all you receive instructions, they will be simple. You will get a downloadable file. It will be a detailed guide on how the business works.
You post ads on a particular website. And you send the instructions you received to anyone who responds. And you become part of a chain of scammers. Your payment is the registration fee each victim pays.
• Video game tester job scam: This one targets those who enjoy playing video games with a partner. One day, you come across an ad. It talks about needing a video game tester. The payment seems attractive. You will even get to play a game before its official release. The payment is quite tempting; up to $70 per hour.
The ad excites you and you register yourself with the gamer. You also pay an apparently nominal amount as registration fee. For you, that is minimal when compared to the tons of money you wish to make as a game tester.
You wait for a confirmation of your registration. But the company disappears. It won’t attend your calls or respond to your emails.
Points to remember
Offsite job scams can come in any form or fashion. However, there are certain telltale signs that become visible at a glance. Below are a few such:
• Run away from anything that appears illegal
• Don’t fall for promises that are too good to be true.
• Remember, no legit company asks you to pay for you to work for them.
• You don’t have to pay for a list of books to review and get paid. It is there free on the worldwide web.
• There exist no legit get-rich schemes.
• Don’t fall for unsolicited emails offers.
• Stay emotionally intelligent. Remember, appealing to your emotions is the first tactic that scammers use.
Stay alert, do your homework, use your common sense and stay legal. No scammer can trick you if you’re aware of their tricks.
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