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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Coronavirus and the scams

With the vast majority locked down at home and surviving on line, it was inevitable that a number of unscrupulous individuals would seek to exploit that and, as the Independent reports, this is happening in spades.

The paper says that Google is being forced to block 18 million of the messages per day, as cyber criminals attempt to use the outbreak to lure people into fraud and other attacks:

The messages may come from people posing as authorities looking to spread useful advice, for instance. Or they look to take advantage of people working and studying from home by appearing as if they are from a person's office.

In fact, however, they are from malicious internet users who are attempting to defraud people by exploiting the panic around the disease.

Google said that "bad actors are creating new attacks and scams every day that attempt to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic". The attackers are using "fear and financial incentives" to try and make people respond, the company said.

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

Its blocking systems are being updated to ward off such messages and still 99.9 per cent of them are being picked up before they arrive in users' inboxes, Google said.

Google gave a variety of examples of such attacks, and warned people that they should not respond to any such communications. If Google spots such a scam message, it will show a large red warning saying the same thing at the top of the message. 

Many of the messages claim to be from the World health Organisation, using that identity to ask for donations or to distribute malicious computer files. The messages may start with a genuine-looking message of concern about the pandemic, but go on to ask for donations to be sent in bitcoin to a specific address, for instance.

Others pose as office payroll departments and ask for details that claim to be helping the recipient get paid, but in fact use that information to steal money from the person getting the message. Or they may pose as the government, using the recent US stimulus checks to promise the same.

So beware, don't click on any attached files from dubious sources, don't believe anything you are told online without checking first, and never give bank details to anybody.
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