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While many communities have pulled together during the coronavirus pandemic, fraudsters have taken the opportunity to commit identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone illegally obtains and uses another person’s personal data for deception or fraud.
The primary motivation for identity theft is usually for financial gain. When someone uses your details to make purchases or take out credit, they can quickly run up huge bills.
You may not be aware of the crime for many months, so it’s essential to be mindful of which scams criminals are using to obtain your personal information during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and how to protect yourself against identity theft.
1. Fake Websites and Online Shopping Scams
Cybercriminals know people are spending more time online while travel is restricted and many businesses are closed. Identity thieves set up fake retail websites, hoping you will order goods for delivery. When you click the button to make a purchase, the next page asks for your name, address, phone number, and credit card details.
This information provides the criminal with all the information they need to use your credit card for their own gain. There are also fake donation sites that take advantage of your goodwill. You may think you’re donating to a coronavirus charity, but the money is going into the criminal’s bank account while you simultaneously provide them with your personal details.
2. Phishing and Vishing
If you receive an unexpected communication that asks for personal information, it’s best to delete the email or hang up the phone.
Phishing occurs when cybercriminals contact their potential victims by email, text message, or advertisement to obtain personal details. The message will often ask you to click on a link that can then infect your computer with malware. Criminals can learn your personal information and steal your identity without you being aware they can see what is on your computer.
Vishing happens when identity thieves contact their victims by telephone. A criminal impersonates a legitimate organization to gain your trust and then asks for personal details such as your social security number or medical information. If you receive an unexpected communication that asks for personal information, it’s best to delete the email or hang up the phone.
3. Pretending to be the Government
The cyber thieves may send an email that appears to be from the government asking you to set up an account to receive coronavirus updates.
People look to government leaders during a pandemic, and cyber criminals are pretending to be reputable organizations to commit identity theft. The cyber thieves may send an email that appears to be from the government asking you to set up an account to receive coronavirus updates. When you enter your data, they have the information they need to take out credit in your name.
They may also send a letter asking you to call a phone number that the criminals are using to ask for personal information. Because you are making the call, it does not seem as suspicious as receiving a phone call from a stranger.
4. Fake Coronavirus Tests and Results
For the purposes of ID theft, coronavirus has provided another opportunity for cyber thieves. You may receive communication by email, text message, or phone call, offering a free coronavirus test and results. With the concern over the effects of coronavirus and the risk of spreading it to others, it can seem an attractive proposition.
However, this is another scam that results in you passing detailed personal information to cybercriminals who can instantly assume your identity for their own financial gain.
5. Fake Job Advertisements
Fake job advertisements are an unscrupulous way that cyber scammers use their victims for financial gain in two ways. The first is that the person applies for a job with a coronavirus relief charity and offers to collect donations. The criminals request that the collector pay the money into their own account and then transfer it to the criminal.
However, the cyber thief can simultaneously use the job applicant’s details to obtain credit or complete transactions in their name. People expect to give detailed information when applying for a job, so it doesn’t appear to be suspicious when the fake company asks for your social security number.
6. Fake Zoom Invitations
In terms of ID theft, coronavirus has changed the way people interact, which presents new opportunities for cybercriminals. Many people have become used to communicating over online video chat platforms such as Zoom. Whether it is to keep in touch with family or for work purposes, online meet-ups are becoming a normal part of everyday life. Unfortunately, cybercriminals can send multiple invitations at the click of a button by purchasing a list of email addresses.
It’s unlikely every person on the list will be tech-savvy, and some people may click on a link that gives the scammer access to the information on their victim’s computer. The links can also take you to a site that looks like the official Zoom page, which requests personal information before you can access the call.
After entering the information, the page won’t connect you to a call. People might think the link is broken and not take steps to stop criminals from misusing their details.
7. Fake Door-to-Door Services
One of the less technological ways criminals are stealing people’s identities is by offering local services. Many people are unable to leave their homes to get groceries or run errands. Others may have had cleaning services come to keep their home tidy because they cannot do it themselves.
When thieves come to your door, they ask for numerous details under the guise of a legitimate business. They may even ask for PIN numbers to use someone’s card to make the required purchases.
If the criminal brings the groceries back, it is unlikely anyone would be suspicious. However, they are now in possession of the details they need to steal that person’s identity.
It can be challenging to protect yourself from identity theft. However, there are some practical steps you can take to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
Check your financial statements regularly and report any unauthorized activity. You should also check your credit report with the major credit bureaus; you are entitled to one free report each year, but you can also subscribe to the bureau for a fee and receive unlimited access to your financial details.
Change your online passwords and make them hard to guess. A password manager app can help you create encrypted passwords that are more difficult for cybercriminals to steal.
Don’t click on suspicious online links, and don’t give out personal information over the phone. Remove your personal details from social media accounts and safeguard all paperwork that contains sensitive information by storing it in a safe or lockable drawer.
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