The different types of fraud to beware of amidst the COVID-19 outbreak
By Alex Beavan - Head of Fraud Investigation, Western Union Business Solutions 18 March 2020
During the ongoing COVID-19 virus outbreak, fraudsters globally are attempting to exploit the situation to defraud businesses and individuals. At Western Union Business Solutions, we feel it is important to alert you to different types of fraud and scenarios that you may be subjected to in the days and months to come, and to inform you of the steps you can take to help prevent you becoming a fraud victim.
Types of Fraud:
· Fake goods
· Investment opportunities
· Malicious emails
· Fake charities
· Fake funding
As the demand for resources grows and the pressure on businesses increases it is possible clients will seek new suppliers to meet that demand. Fraudsters are setting up fake websites and advertising across open source and social media that they can provide, for example goods such as face masks, ventilators, cleaning goods, foods, and domestic sanitary equipment. The advertising will indicate that supply can be in bulk. It is unlikely to be extremely cheap as fraudsters are aware of the sheer demand for such goods.
In order to prevent yourself from being a victim of this type of scam the following steps should be considered:
· Only deal with a confirmed supplier either by previous successful purchase, government authorized, or recommended by someone you trust who has had a successful purchase. · Always conduct open source searching around whether there is suggestion that it is a scam. · Always use sites such as WHOIS and business registrations to establish how long the ‘new’ supplier has been in existence. · Use open source to check out phone numbers and emails provided.
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected global markets such as the Dow Jones and FTSE 100. Shares in companies have been deeply affected which is also impacting pensions and dividends. Individuals with liquidity are avoiding financial markets until the perceived ‘bottom’ has been reached. Fraudsters are aware of this and have been setting up fake websites and advertising investment opportunities with high returns. They may advertise investment in the Gold market or property and promise substantial returns. The advertising encourages individuals and companies to make payments to a bank account. Literature via email will be provided and they may provide details relating to alleged registration with local financial regulators.
In order to prevent yourself from being a victim of this type of scam the following steps should be considered: · Only invest with a financial institution you have previously successfully used, government authorized, or recommended by someone you trust who has successfully invested. · Always conduct open source searching around whether there is a suggestion that it is a scam. Check out the website using WHOIS and business registrations to establish how long the investment company has been in existence. · Review any alleged financial membership number with the appropriate website such as the FCA. · Such opportunities always promise excellent returns which are just not achievable. Common sense should be used in any decision making as to whether to invest.
Nearly every piece of news is currently connected with COVID-19. Many Governments and companies are also sending out emails about the virus and how they are dealing with it. Fraudsters are pretending to be Government organizations / businesses / financial institutions and sending out fake emails designed to trick people into opening attachments that download malicious software. Such email may have fake screenshots and imagery taken from real and related websites.
In order to prevent yourself from being a victim of this type of phishing / malware attacks the following steps should be considered: · Never click on any link or open any attachment within an email unless its from a known and confirmed contact. · If you get an email from a website you subscribed to, go directly to the website to check on your account. Do not use any link in the email you received. · Delete all emails you are suspicious of immediately. Clear your junk mail regularly as well as your email deletion folder.
The COVID-19 crisis has left a lot of individuals short of supplies and also basic living requirements in certain regions. Fraudsters are setting up fake websites pretending to be charities and appealing to businesses and individual’s for monetary contributions to help individuals and communities affected. The websites have used the copious amount of material out in the public domain to help build their websites to give them an air of authenticity. The fraudsters are setting up ways to make donations via bank accounts, financial institutions, and fake money services businesses.
In order to prevent yourself from being a victim of this type of scam the following steps should be considered: · Any alleged charity receiving an annual income of £5000 or more must be registered with the Charities Commission. Go to their site to check whether a charity is registered https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information· Only use a charity or NGO that is properly registered and has been operating for a considerable amount of time. · Always use open source searching to confirm or deny whether an alleged charity is a suspected scam.
In this scam, clients or individuals receive fake emails, text messages or social media posts asking them to donate money to a research team that is allegedly developing a drug to treat COVID-19. Others claim they are nearing a vaccine for immunizing the public against the virus. The email will take them to a donation link where they can send a donation to help the advertised cause. The fraudsters will put imagery and videos in the emails showing people suffering but also provide some technical information apparently linked to the vaccine, as well as videos allegedly to show the vaccine being tested.
In order to prevent yourself from being a victim of this type of scam the following steps should be considered: · Never click on any link or open any attachment within an email not from a known and confirmed contact. The same applies to any messages via social media. · All such projects around vaccine development are Government led and do not involve mailshots asking for donations. · Do not make any such donations as these are all fake. Other steps to take · Please ensure your contact details in relation to your Western Union Business Solutions account is up to date. · If you are working from home on a phone number that is not recorded on your account, then please contact your account manager. · As with all business transactions, please conduct relevant due diligence and confirm the veracity of a supplier. · If you are concerned that you are the victim of a fraud, please contact your Western Union Business Solutions representative as soon as possible.
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