ORLANDO, Fla. — A leading cybersecurity expert who describes himself as an “ethical hacker,” says bad guys are using the coronavirus pandemic to try to steal your money.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and caused trillions of dollars in economic losses worldwide.
To make matters worse, criminals are trying to clean out your bank account and steal your personal information.
“The attack surface for these bad people is the entire world. It’s everyone,” said Cybersecurity expert Chris Hadnagy, who has written books about tracking hackers on the dark web and consults Fortune 100 companies.
Hadnagy runs a cybersecurity firm based in Orlando.
“There’s more chatter about this on the internet. We’re seeing more accounts being stolen. We’re seeing more people’s information being sold. And then we see more people talking about these attacks, all over the globe,” Hadnagy said.
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He also says scammers are attacking people who are working from home, sending phishing emails that appear to be from corporate human resources or IT departments.
When they click links, malware is installed on their computers.
“They’re getting things like Social Security number, date of birth, employee id and passwords,” said Hadnagy.
Other popular scams involve selling fake COVID-19 testing kits and soliciting for fake charities.
Some crooks even are calling and pretending to be from government agencies.
“They say ‘hey, we’re from the IRS. Your refund is coming. We just need your banking information,’” said Hadnagy. “People are giving it out. Or they say 'we can rush you your check, you just need to give us a $19 processing fee.'“
According to the Federal Trade Commission, these scams are working.
That agency has received more than 25,000 COVID-19 related scam reports, resulting in $19 million in losses.
In Florida, there have been 1,864 complaints.
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This comes as no surprise to Hadnagy, who has seen growing numbers of credit cards being sold on the dark web.
He says the most important way to protect yourself during these trying times is to use common sense.
“Don’t just click things. Critically think. Say ‘would the IRS call me and ask for my credit card number? Would my HR department send me this link to install new software?’ And if the answer is 'I don’t know,' find out before you give out any information,” said Hadnagy.
Here are some tips to protect yourself from COVID-19 scams from the FTC:
· Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government.
· Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There are no products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
· Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
· Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like www.coronavirus.gov to get the latest information. Don't click on links from sources you don't know.
· Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
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