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Published: 8 april 2020 13:17

Possible fraud schemes during the COVID-19 crisis

Patikliesems – ne dovanos, o nuostoliai
123RF.com nuotr. / Cyber-fraud

The state of emergency is the perfect time for fraudsters to make use of these particular circumstances, when many organisations are transitioning to remote working and employees are gaining new skills: searching for new information and using new technological tools. Those who have lost stable incomes are more vulnerable and are looking for chances to earn.

We invite you to read about the most common fraud schemes, as well as security advice to protect your finances, data and devices.

The most common fraud methods

Scammers always operate with the aim of gaining their victims’ personal information or money. The most common scamming methods are investment fraud, when a person is persuaded to invest in a unique opportunity, and phishing, which uses different methods to persuade people to enter their personal online banking or payment card details on fraudulent sites.

“So far, all cases of investment fraud have fit the pattern of clients receiving a phone call presenting ‘the chance of a lifetime’ to invest and earn money. The caller usually only speaks Russian. The phone numbers which receive the calls are chosen at random or taken from an illegally-obtained database. It is usually older people who fall victim to these scams, and there have been cases where clients have even attempted to secure a bank loan in order to invest.

In the second most widespread method, client enters their personal information in a fraudulent website, after which scammers can use this information to make purchases, transfer money from the client’s bank account and so on. The most typical tools are fake online stores or fraudulent links in real online stores, SMS messages and emails claiming to be from the bank which ask people to click on a link to view a message, check on an incoming payment or change their PIN numbers and log in details. Scammers are very creative, and every day sees a new approach to stealing clients’ personal data,” Michail Solovjov, „Citadele“ bank Senior Information Security Officer.

Other possible fraud schemes during the COVID-19 crisis

Be careful of fraudulent SMS or WhatsApp messages with links asking you to enter bank information to receive information on free Covid-19 tests or state support for those who have come into difficulties. Fraudulent information has already been spread on WhatsApp in Latvia. In this case, there was no attempt to steal data, but we expect this type of message to appear.

In other countries, there have been cases of fraudulent emails and informative resources offering the latest on the spread of the virus which contain viruses or ask users to enter personal information to gain access. This may also take the form of apps offering real-time virus updates which, once downloaded, block the device and seek money to unblock it.

One more fraud scheme which we see every so often and which could appear during this time—a potential victim answers an advertisement offering a loan, or even publishes an advertisement seeking a loan. Scammers then convince the victim to hand over all online login data or open a bank account. For example, they may tell the victim that online banking information is needed to check their credit history or access a report from SSIA portals. From there, scammers take out payday loans in the name of the victim which are paid out to other accounts.

Security advice

To protect yourself from scammers, you should ask yourself several questions while shopping online and making other financial transactions.

  • When shopping online or visiting the online bank, ensure that the web address written in the address bar is correct. Often, scammers create a page which is almost identical to the online bank, yet whose address is different from the real URL, such as online.citadele.lv.
  • If you receive an SMS or email from any service provider, ensure that the links are not fraudulent, and never open a link if you have any doubt about the authenticity of the message. We recommend verifying the authenticity of the information on the service provider’s website or calling the information number on their website. Remember that the bank will never send an SMS or email asking you to enter your personal information.
  • Check whether an online store has been created by scammers. One of the most widespread methods of fraud is to create an online store website and offer goods at very low prices. Always check whether an online store really exists. You can do this in several ways—searching for online reviews, checking the business registration number, critically evaluating the information given about the company and so on.
  • Take advantage of the mobile app. First, turn on notifications for all card transactions, which will instantly appear on screen, allowing you to keep track of payments; second, indicate in which parts of the world the card may be used (on the Citadele app you can indicate the Baltics, Europe or the world, thus determining the territory where payments are permitted); third, we invite you to block online payments when not necessary; and finally, if necessary, temporarily block the use of your card and cash withdrawals if you have any suspicions regarding the fraudulent use of your card and transactions not initiated by yourself.

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