As COVID-19 continues to circulate around the world, fraudsters are taking advantage of the panic to spread scams. A huge percentage of the U.S. workforce has transitioned to work-from-home roles, and as a result, companies are at more risk than ever before of falling victim to these hoaxes. It's a little like adding insult to injury, but COVID-19 and fraud are now coming hand-in-hand for many.
Practicing prudence during the pandemic
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has already received approximately 16,800 consumer complaints related to the outbreak, including 9,400 about Coronavirus fraud. The FTC and FDA have joined to issue warning letters to sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the Coronavirus. At this time, the FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products available to treat or prevent the virus.
In times of trouble, leniency becomes crime. As Batman said, crime never sleeps. Businesses must be vigilant to protect their organizations from chicanery and deception. Employees with access to company funds can be tricked into paying doctored invoices. Workers with access to company data can inadvertently reveal sensitive company knowledge if they are manipulated into downloading malware or spyware. Here are some ways to ensure your company is safe from fraud:
- Encourage all employees to always verify the identity of any business, organization or individual contacting the company
- Ensure your company’s security software is up-to-date
- Mandate that all workers use two-factor authentication so that stealing a password isn't enough for a hacker to get into the company's payroll system
- Recognize that scammers use addresses that look similar to legitimate entities, for example using “who.international” instead of “who.int”
- Avoid opening any unsolicited emails offering supplies, treatment or requesting personal information for medical purposes
- Teach all team members how to enable anti-malware and anti-virus software on their devices
- Avoid clicking on links or open email attachments from unverified sources
- Delete offers with subject lines including words such as “vaccines,” “cure” or “treatment”
- Don’t purchase COVID-19 related products or supplies without searching through all available consumer reviews
- Thoroughly research charities or crowdfunding sites regarding Coronavirus before donating
- Be wary of any investment opportunities, especially those that claim that your support can help “stop the spread”
If you haven’t yet done so, hold a mandatory meeting teaching all employees on how to protect the business from fraud. As your employees take your business home with them, they become more vulnerable to phishing attempts. Amidst the fear and uncertainty, all workers must be equipped to protect themselves and the organization from scams.
COVID-19 and fraud: How to protect yourself
AI-based speech analytics solutions like Tethr can flag potentially fraudulent activities. Using Tethr, companies can identify key words and phrases used in interactions that are indicative of malicious activity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned businesses that cyber criminals are sending phishing emails with malicious links and are impersonating WHO officials to steal money and sensitive information. Your employees must be consistently reminded that if they become aware of a possible data security breach while out of the office, they should inform the designated party as soon as possible. By practicing extra caution during the pandemic, companies can avoid additional issues associated with loss of valuable business information.