The number of reported phishing attacks has risen by 600% since February when it became clear that COVID-19 would become a worldwide threat. Most are designed to cash in by taking advantage of people’s fear and the uncertainty. They are normally sent via email, but can also occur on instant messages, texts, or over the phone. The difference now is most people are working from home, relying on an array of technology to communicate on an unprecedented scale.
Examples range in complexity and credibility. There was a Facebook ‘promotion’ offering compensation for the spread of the virus up to £1 million if you sent personal details to their management team: a blatant scam.
WhatsApp has also been targeted and there are also emails and direct messages circulating claiming to be from Instagram, saying accounts have been compromised and asking for email addresses and passwords.
Another scam doing the rounds is a government payment hoax sent via text, involving compensation offers for COVID, stating the government is paying £258 to every resident as part of a promise to battle the virus, then a prompt to tap a link. It is similar in format to the nationwide text genuinely sent by the government at the start of lockdown, urging people to stay at home.
Phishing attacks aren’t going to stop anytime soon, so we recommend you treat all emails using the pandemic as a subject skeptically. Avoid interacting with the links and attachments in these emails whenever possible and avoid clicking on weird messages with links to videos or online meetings you didn’t expect.
If you want to visit what you think is a legitimate link, go to the real site manual and find it. If you are unsure about a link or attachment that seems to come from someone you know, call them first to make sure it’s genuine.