Scammers and criminals may make current events their main course this year, as they take advantage of the news and turn it into potential scams.
It’s almost one month into the new year — can you believe it? — and the scams have already started. We’ve seen one from a fake JB HiFi already, promising prizes if you hand over your credit card for shipping (don’t!), and it’s not likely to be alone.
Security organisation Avast has hinted that 2021 will likely see plenty of cyber threats, as scammers and cyber criminals take advantage of people working from home, as well as people paying attention to the news cycle. We started to see some of that last one with COVID-19 scams last year, but as vaccines start to become a real thing, you can expect scammers take advantage of the news cycle in an attempt to make their attempts more believable.
That might start with scams, but it might also come with fake products promising snake oil cures, getting people to hand over their money for something that is clearly fake, before being signed up to a list promising yet more scam-ridden products.
“If people see vaccination offerings circulating on the internet, they need to keep in mind that the sale is likely too good to be true, as vaccinations should be distributed through official sources only,” said Jakub Kroustek, Threat Labs Team Lead for Avast.
“Instead of falling for shady scams, people should trust their local doctors and medical institutions for COVID-19 information and vaccinations,” he said.
Vaccine scams and fraudulent products are one way people can expect scams to reach them this year, but it’s not the only way. The various software forms of security threats are another, as adware, fleeceware, ransomware, and stalkerware arrive, each bringing something different.
While adware leaves ads running on your computer and ransomware holds a portion of your drive ransom until you pay up (and even if you pay up), fleeceware and stalkerware may be less common. Fleeceware is named because it fleeces people out of money with a subscription to something fraudulent on mobile devices, while stalkerware runs on your device in the background and monitors messages, phone calls, and location.
It might come as ransomware, and that might end up arriving other ways, too. One prospect is that more ransomware comes as workers continue to work from home. As tech support remains centralised and workers use their home networks, ransomware could easily come out in larger numbers, targeting businesses through their workers at home.
It’s the sort of thing you might see through apps that are less than legit, as scammers try find a way to get into your phone with their special sauce. While app stores are often solid at making sure to weed out these apps through their verification process, some may leak through, so it’ll be a good idea for most users to keep their wits about them this year.
Unfortunately, these are just a handful of the ways we can expect scammers to attempt to take advantage of regular people this year. The old approaches will likely stick around, with plenty of email scams and SMS scams purporting to be from someone you know, such as Facebook, Amazon, or Australia Post.
The simple truth is that criminals make big money out of scams, and provided people keep falling for it, they’ll keep at it. With scams costing Australians over $600 million in the past year, regardless of the trend, we’ll all need to stay aware in order to keep criminals out of our lives, online and offline.