How the recent pandemic affected phone fraud and how to avoid it in the future?

In May of 2020, the NY Times published an interesting article about scams in the Big Apple during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you had faith in humanity, that amidst all of this crisis, we would all stand together, united, these times showed how naive we have been. Hackers, thieves, fraudsters, con-men and seemingly every possible criminal took advantage of the panic, the chaos and the overall pandemic to trick, scam and lure away your hard-earned money. Telephone scams became even more frightening than before. So, why don’t we dive a little bit deeper and find out what telephone scams were prevalent during the pandemic and how to avoid getting scammed in such situations later on?

Simple phishing

Phishing is a form of cybercrime which is oriented not towards stealing your money (although that usually comes later), but rather towards taking sensitive private information like social security numbers, passwords, etc.

During the pandemic, when you couldn’t visit a lot of institutions, hackers, posing mainly as banks, sent thousands of SMS messages to unsuspecting people. They send worrying messages and say something like: You need to log in as there seems to have been a breach or something of such nature. In the message, you find a link which redirects you to a website that looks exactly like your bank’s official website. However, always be careful with these things and check out the number who called or texted you, and contact your bank directly because 99.9% of them won’t send any links via emails, SMS or other messaging apps.

Insurance fraud over the phone

During the pandemic, insurance fraud numbers skyrocketed. However, the basic scams when someone tries to get benefits they don’t qualify or are eligible for is only the façade of the problem. If we were to dive deeper, we could uncover some very unfortunate victim stories.

There are a lot of people who aren’t aware that they qualify for benefits or some governmental aid which was given out during the pandemic. In various countries, governments subsidised small businesses, freelancers and a lot of other people. Even though claims were at an all-time high, some people didn’t claim everything, acted too late, or everything was taken on their behalf. Let’s talk about the latter event when scammers embezzle and steal money thanks to phone scams, robocalls or phone phishing.

So, how it happens?

1.Someone has a list of eligible claimants for benefits that haven’t yet claimed or reached out for payment

2.They call them up, imposing as a representative of the agency and try to lure your data out

3.They could also send you a link to a phishing site where you were to log on using sensitive info while on the call.

4.If you do that, they can use your info and steal money away.

If the victims of such scams were only keen enough to use a mobile number tracker or lookup the number of the person who called you, a lot of losses could be avoided.

Phone scams with dedicated PC issues as rampant as everIf you would know how many dedicated scam call centres operate in Asia (mainly in India)… Oh, that’s right, thanks to YouTube Channels like Jim Browning – you can. Take a look at the video below, it can help you understand how scammers lure away money from unsuspecting victims (mostly Western Europeans and Americans) -

What ends up happening is you visit a phoney or a scam website. It could happen by mistake, accident or on purpose. Once you visit that website, some malware is downloaded to your computer. It starts acting up and disrupting your browsing experience or work. Before you know it, you get a very intimidating popup or screen saying that your PC is infected and you should call Microsoft Support team ASAP. And they give you a number to get started. A lot of people do call and fall right into the pre-arranged trap of the scammers.

A concerned voice will try to force the victim into connecting with them via TeamViewer or some other app. They claim that this is the only way to solve such a significant issue without throwing away your PC. You want to know the best part about it? You only have to pay a few hundred bucks, or if the case is severe – more than a thousand dollars for them to “fix” it. Fixing is done when you purchase a “Malware deletion tool” or something which the scammers insist you buy. If you do, it’s highly likely that they delete your malware, but about 90% of the time they won’t even bother with that.

So, all in all, this is a multi-layer scam in which the final part is the phone scam.

However, protecting yourselves or someone else from this is as simple as using a phone number tracker or a similar service.

Most of these scammer phone numbers are already listed as threatening or belonging to scammers.

Essential goods

If you go to the FCC website (Federal Communications Commission), and for those who don’t know, it’s like an independent governmental organisation which monitors broadcasting and communications in the USA, you can find a list of consumer scams, including telephone ones, related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can learn about bogus advertisements of tests, made for consumers, even vaccines and even contact tracing. This means that someone calls to inform you that you have recently come in contact with someone who has coronavirus. They will try to lure out sensitive personal info during this phone call. Don’t give it to them.

However, probably the most outrageous and worrying scam is the one related to essential consumer goods. This relates to the simple sale of face masks, hand sanitiser and other much-needed equipment. During the pandemic, people became desperate and in a strong need for a lot of health-related products. What ended up happening was hoarding, ridiculously high prices and scams. You could find someone who sells, for example, hand sanitiser online for a reasonable price. You call, and they say stock is full, you can buy. The victim proceeds to pay and buy. However, 24 hours later, the website is taken down, and there is nothing left. No money and no trace of the scammer. Since this was likely a new online store, the only way to find someone was to trace their phone number.

Why we went on about phone number tracking so much?

As you probably noticed, we mentioned something called a phone number tracker, reverse phone lookup and similar things in this article as a means for preventing such scams.

However, for some, it may seem easy to spot the scammer, but if they are persistent, cunning and catch the victim at a time when they’re not ready, getting harmed is not such a distant possibility.

The only actively effective way to prevent telephone scams is comprised of two steps. Number 1 is a strong recommendation to avoid any impulse or quick actions. Take a few minutes before logging in, wait a while before you send the money. Nothing will change in 10 minutes, so be patient.

Step Number 2 is using free software like phone number lookup to find out more about the caller in the meantime. The search and lookup only take a minute, but it can definitely save you from a life long headache. Think about it.