Coronavirus Scams on the Rise

Email and phone scams using the pandemic

With much of the world in self-imposed quarantine, The Coronavirus pandemic has created fear and uncertainty for everyone, and a perfect opportunity for malicious scammers to take advantage of the resultant confusion.

Vessel networks are not immune; as crew and guests rely on the Internet to stay connected with loved ones, emails, calls and texts are being targeted by hackers and scammers. Last Thursday, Google reported that they have stopped millions of malicious coronavirus-related emails from reaching Gmail users in the last seven days.

“During the last week, we saw 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19,” the company said. “This is in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages.”

While previous email and robocall scams threatened IRS penalties or promised free vacations, the new ones are using both pandemic-related and personal information to make convincing communications. The new scams include impersonating public-health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) to “solicit fraudulent donations” or distribute malware. Here are a few common scams the FCC has been alerted to:

  • Warnings of national quarantine or martial law — these could be trying to get you to order something or just part of a coordinated disinformation campaign
  • Messages purporting to be from the WHO or charities asking for money
  • Offers of free virus test kits — some of these are specifically targeting individuals with diabetes, and also offer a “free” blood sugar monitor
  • Offering HVAC cleaning or upgrades to protect against the virus
  • Promotions of various bogus products and treatments for the virus
  • Asking for information to confirm a check from the government — the process for this if it happens will not be a random text message

As a general rule, unknown numbers — especially from your home or local marina area code — are a red flag. Let them go to message and you can always listen later. If it’s a local business saying your order is ready or a hospital reminding you of your appointment, they’ll say so.

  • Anyone asking for personal or payment info over phone, text or email is almost certainly a scammer. There is almost never any need to share this information insecurely.
  • Links in text messages from unknown or suspicious numbers are never to be touched. They may lead to being hacked or tracked via means hosted on the web.

Phishing attempts and scams have been on the rise during the pandemic as hackers look to exploit fears surrounding the virus. The Federal Trade Commission said it had received more than 15,000 coronavirus-related consumer complaints of fraud and scams so far in 2020, amounting to over $12 million in losses. Hackers are also targeting businesses and yachts that may be relying on less secure IT infrastructure amid remote-work environments. Cybersecurity researchers at Proofpoint said they had seen a historic high in business email scams exploiting the coronavirus to try to steal information.

Check with your IT Officer or IT provider to ensure your vessel network has protections in place. GCS provides IT support and email security for many of the largest and most complex superyachts on the water today. You can learn more about GCS IT and network services by clicking the link below, or contact a GCS Representative to discuss your IT and online security needs.

GCS IT Support

Please keep safe, smart and healthy, and we’ll get through this pandemic together!

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