Coronavirus is not the only threat to look out for!Published on 26 March 2020
It’s a strange and bewildering time we’re living in. Faced by uncertainties and a sense of isolation due to social distancing, many will be looking to the internet to find trustworthy information and reassurances. We should tread carefully, though. The National Security Council (NSC) has recently cautioned the rakyat to be mindful of scams which prey on the public’s fear.
We all have that one family member who’s constantly sharing these COVID-19 “instant cure” messages out of love and concern. Little do they know that what they disseminated may actually be a chain message sent out by online scammers. In times like these, certain groups — such as your ah gong and ah ma — who may not be the most tech-savvy people will be most vulnerable to threats by scammers.
Hence, we’ve tracked down the most virulent COVID-19 scams out there. Discover what you need to know to make sure your moolahstays in your pocket.
1. The face mask deal
As we retreat into the comforts of our home during this period, wearing masks when we occasionally head out to tapau food is almost second nature to most of us. Earlier this month, a Chinese national was scammed into handing over RM600,000 and her passport to a conman who took advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak to “sell” face masks. The poor victim was duped into thinking that the masks would be delivered to her family and friends.
You must be wondering by now how many face masks you can get with RM600,000 — 1.1 million pieces to be exact!
More stories, or rather cautionary tales, from individuals who claimed to have been cheated by online suppliers over the purchase of face masks amid the ongoing COVID 19 outbreak can be found here.
2. The who’s WHO game
One of the latest schemes employed by scammers is impersonation of health authorities. Like many other phishing campaigns, the whole point of the scheme is to convince unknowing victims that the perpetrators represent some sort of official group. The real danger surfaces when those who aren’t familiar with the subject or language receive emails which are actually phishing scams.
In a recent statement, the NSC denied rumours that the government has appointed agencies to carry out “house-to-house” immunisation and urged Malaysians to be wary of the latest tactic used by ill-intentioned individuals.
Security agencies have also identified phishing emails sent under the guise of reputable bodies such as the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) with malicious attachments.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some tips on how you can identify phishing emails.
3. The “coronavirus” on your device
COVID-19 is currently being widely featured as one of the most discussed topics on many news platforms. Online scammers are exploiting the popularity of resources related to COVID-19 on the web by sending out phishing emails with malware hidden attachments.
Remember that video your pakcik sent you containing instructions on how to protect yourself against the virus, updates on the threat and even virus detection procedures? Unfortunately, they are often not the real deal.
In fact, Reason Cybersecurity recently issued a threat analysis report pertaining to a highly circulated map that tracks COVID-19 cases that is riddled with malware. The file is commonly named Corona-virus-Map.com.exe. When users download the file, a data-stealing malware is triggered to collect sensitive information stored in your web browsers.
Curiousity killed the cat and in this case, satisfaction won’t necessarily bring it back. So do make it a habit to always check the extension of a file before you open it.
This “infodemic” that seeks to take advantage of the current COVID-19 situation is growing, but by being vigilant you can prevent yourself from becoming another victim. Remember to always verify the authenticity of any information before you choose to trust it.
When it comes to the ongoing outbreak, the best place to get updates is from the Ministry of Health (Twitter, Facebook). You can also check out this CoronaTracker created by a Malaysian-led research team that has been recognised by WHO.
Like what you’ve read so far? We’ve been posting articles on the Movement Control Order and COVID-19 on a regular basis, so do check them out. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter for the latest stories.