While we were all stuck at home during lockdown – becoming pro bakers and perfecting our binge-watching skills – hackers, fraudsters and scam artists were stuck in lockdown too, but spent their time dreaming up new scams to con people.
As if the virus wasn’t enough to worry about, Covid-19 scams are in full force. The combination of a public health crisis, economic pressures, job losses and the uncertainty of when things will fully go back to how they were pre-coronavirus, has created the perfect storm for fraudsters to sneak through our defences.
Here are five common scams to watch out for – and how to protect yourself.
1. Phishing, smishing and vishing with a Covid twist
Phishing is a common scam that includes an email attachment or link designed to get you to share sensitive information. They’re created to look as if a legit company is contacting you, and often offer some form of benefit, such as a tax refund. With so many people applying for payment holidays and tax relief, it’s the perfect time for hackers to jump on the bandwagon. Smishing is the SMS version of phishing, and vishing involves an individual calling you. They may be posing as someone from a genuine company, but their aim is the same – they want your personal details.
Stay savvy: If you haven’t personally applied for a tax rebate or a debt holiday, ignore any emails or SMSes claiming that you have. Fraudsters cast a wide net in the hope that a few people will be intrigued enough to click on a link. Remember, a legitimate company – especially TymeBank – will never ask you for sensitive information such as OTPs, PINs or passwords over email, SMS or the phone.
2. Charity scams
In many ways, Covid -19 has brought out the best in us, as communities pull together to help each other out. The problem is that fraudsters are more than willing to get in on the action, setting up fake charities or pretending to represent well-known charities to steal donations for themselves.
Stay savvy: Before you donate, make sure the charity you’re looking at is registered as a non-profit organisation (NPO), and that there’s a clear non-profit number. Visit the website, and phone the listed number to double check that you’re dealing with a real representative. If you truly want to give back, ask your community for recommendations and choose charitable causes that have been around long before the pandemic and are best positioned to help now.
3. Mobile app Covid scams
When the pandemic hit, new Covid-19 apps flooded the market, and not all of them were safe. Designed to track the spread of the virus and share updates, many of these apps can infect mobile devices with malware, which is then used to obtain your personal information, sensitive data and banking information, and you won’t even realise it’s happening.
Stay savvy: Only download apps from Google Play or the Apple store. Never download apps that you find on websites. With so many security protocols in place, it’s rare for a fraudulent app to sneak through Android or Apple’s defences, which is why it’s better to stick to these well-known platforms instead of “third-party” sites.
4. Investment scams
Covid-19 is a gift for investment scam artists, who pitch opportunities for investing in services or products designed to prevent, detect or cure coronavirus. Given the current crisis, these ideas seem like a sure bet, except that these companies aren’t real, and the scam artists are planning to run away with your money.
Stay savvy: There’s no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme, even during a global pandemic. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. During turbulent times, experts all share the same advice – don’t make any radical moves, keep your money invested where it is, and ride out the storm. Things will get better.
5. Fake ecommerce sites
Whether you’re bored and browsing on your phone, taking social distancing seriously or you’ve just grown to like the convenience of shopping online, it’s important to be able to spot a fake online shopping site before you pay for goods that you’ll never receive (and worse, give fraudsters all your banking details).
Stay savvy: There are a few simple ways to double check a site before clicking on the “buy now” button, starting with where the business is based. If the site includes a physical address that you can track on Google and has contact details that you can trace, that’s a good start. Fake sites go up and down every few days and won’t include a lot of information that can help you track a real business, because there isn’t one. You can also look for a social media presence that has been around for a while and search for reviews. The best bet is to stick to well-known retailers.
What to do if you think you’re a victim of a scam
TymeBank is serious about security. We also recommend that you make all EFT payments via your TymeBank app as it’s a safer option.
Please regularly check your bank statements to ensure there’s no suspicious activity on your account, and contact us immediately if you’re unsure about a transaction.