COVID-19 Scams: Vulnerabilities

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, people have been forced to make sweeping changes to their lives almost overnight. We’ve had to change the way we work, how our kids go to school, and how we connect in our personal relationships. As if these concerns weren’t enough, this new way of life has led to a spike in scams related to the pandemic. The FTC reports that they have received over 18,000 coronavirus-related scams with the average loss per consumer being $557. This three-part series will focus on our vulnerabilities, the different types of COVID-19 related scams, and how to avoid becoming a victim.

A Rapidly Changing Environment

COVID-19 has altered so many things about our day-to-day lives. Most of us are unable to physically go to work or school, go to stores, or visit friends and family. These changes lead to two factors for vulnerability to scams: a heightened emotional state and an increased reliance on technology.

Disruptions to our routines have caused stress and anxiety. You may be worried about virus rates in your area or in other states where you have friends and family. You may wonder how your kids will keep up with schoolwork or be curious to know more about the stimulus check that is coming from the government. What would you do if you received an email that says, “Instructions for an Expedited Stimulus Check”? Would you click a link in the email? What about “US Gov Announces Effective Treatment for COVID-19”? You can see how our keen interest in a subject works to a scammer’s advantage.

In this heightened emotional state, workers are also adjusting to telework. Many have been expected to quickly shift to virtual meetings and new ways of document sharing. Teachers and students have been thrust into distance learning and all the technology that comes along with it. Unfortunately, not every organization has had the time or resources to fully analyze security concerns for each piece of technology. These circumstances open the door to less than ideal solutions.


A Dangerous Combination

Today’s environment has created an environment where scams thrive: many are experiencing higher levels of stress coupled with a rapid increase in reliance on technology and less time to vet new tools. Our stress levels make us more likely to click on email, text, or social media links that claim to provide information about the virus. And new technology tools increase the ways scammers can find their way into our online sphere.

Next week, we will cover the COVID-19 related scams that have cropped up over the past few weeks. Some are a nuisance while others are out to infect your computer. Still others are out to steal your money and identity. Check back next week or follow us to find out more.

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