Criminals are quick to exploit the ignorance and vulnerability of their victims. The recent proliferation of devices, from smartphones and tablets to web-connected appliances, has opened us all up to even greater risks.
Yet by simply following a few common sense rules, you can drastically reduce your exposure and the risk of being taken in by these fraudsters.
We are seeing criminals trying to cash in on the coronavirus outbreak.
With surgical masks and other medical supplies in high demand yet difficult to find in retail stores, fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell these items have sprung up online.
But instead of receiving the promised masks and supplies, unsuspecting victims have seen their money disappear into the hands of the criminals involved.
Criminals are also using telephone deception to carry out financial frauds – they will call victims pretending to work for a hospital or medical clinic, claiming that a relative of the victim has fallen sick with the virus and request payments for medical treatment.
In many cases, the fraudsters impersonate legitimate companies, using similar names, websites and email addresses in their attempt to trick unsuspecting members of the public, even reaching out proactively via emails and messages on social media platforms.
If you are looking to buy medical supplies online, or receive emails or links offering medical support, be alert to the signs of a potential scam to protect yourself and your money.
- Independently verify the company/individual offering the items before making any purchases;
- Be aware of bogus websites – criminals will often use a web address which looks almost identical to the legitimate one, e.g. ‘abc.org’ instead of ‘abc.com’;
- Check online reviews of a company before making a purchase – for example, have there been complaints of other customers not receiving the promised items?;
- Be wary if asked to make a payment to a bank account located in a different country than where the company is located;
- If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, alert your bank immediately so the payment can be stopped.
- Do not click on links or open attachments which you were not expecting to receive, or come from an unknown sender;
- Be wary of unsolicited emails offering medical equipment or requesting your personal information for medical checks – legitimate health authorities do not normally contact the general public in this manner.
In non-delivery fraud, criminals promise victims highly sought-after goods, accept payment, then never deliver. While the principle is simple, the fraud scheme is often sophisticated. Criminals can adapt a well-established modus operandi to suit any product, whether it is medical equipment, puppies, office supplies or electronics.
Read: 5 reasons non-delivery fraud works
Random victims are contacted by a criminal claiming to be a friend, relative or someone in a position of authority and tricked into parting with money.
- DON’T panic! If you receive a call saying a friend or relative is in trouble, first try to check the identity of the caller but don’t call back the same number.
- DON’T give any personal or confidential information over the phone.
- DON’T trust someone who claims to be a government official or law enforcement officer; they never demand payment or confidential information. DO contact your local police to check.
Criminals develop a “relationship” with victims through social media with the ultimate goal of obtaining money.
- DO be vigilant if you are approached by someone you don’t know, especially if it leads to a request for money.
- DO think twice before transferring money, however genuine the request might seem.
- DON’T disclose personal/confidential information on social media.
Investment/Boiler room fraud
Victims are pressured into investing in fraudulent or worthless shares.
- DO be skeptical if you receive a cold call on investment opportunities.
- DO verify the authenticity of investment products and consult an independent financial advisor.
- DON’T transfer money to anyone simply based on a call.
Victims (often men) are tricked by an attractive stranger into participating in naked videos chats which are secretly recorded and subsequently used for blackmail.
- DO remember that nothing is private on the web and data cannot be erased.
- DO ask pertinent questions and try to verify the identity of anyone who approaches you.
- If you do receive a blackmail threat, DON’T pay up, report it to the police.
- DO keep your cards safe. Regularly check your bank/credit card accounts.
- DO look carefully at ATMs and payment terminals to make sure there are no suspicious objects around the card slot.
- DO keep your distance from other people when using payment terminals.
- DON’T disclose your PIN/passwords. Banks will never ask you for this over the phone or by email.
- DON’T provide bank details unless you initiated the payment process.
- If you are contacted by your bank to update details or take advantage of a special offer, DON’T click on the link in the email. Check out the legitimate website or contact the bank.
- DON’T make a payment online or do any online banking if you are connected to public Wi-Fi, as your information can be easily stolen.
- DO be suspicious if you are asked to let someone else use your bank account.
- DO be wary of cash transactions concerning large amounts of money, there are much more secure payment methods available.
- DON’T let yourself be manipulated. Criminal syndicates often operate by developing relationships with their victims before tricking them into handling money