Pandemic scams and how to protect your business against them

The COVID-19 pandemic brought upheaval and uncertainty to the business community. From phony contact tracing to fake government assistance schemes, criminals have invented new scams to take advantage of this situation. With a few practical steps, you can protect your business from pandemic scams.

Contact tracer scams

Public health officials legitimately use contact tracing to identify people who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. This technique uses phone calls and text messages to quickly notify people that they have been exposed to the virus.

A state agency usually begins contact tracing with a text message followed by a phone call. Legitimate contact tracers will never tell you the name of the person who tested positive. You will not have to provide your name, address, and birth because they will already have that information.

Unfortunately, criminals are falsely claiming to be contact tracers to obtain private information. Scammers may claim to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your state health department. Text message scams often contain links to websites that install malware on your phone or tablet. The criminals can then access Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information.

To protect your business:

  • Ask your state health department about their contact tracing methods and post this information in the workplace.
  • Inform your employees about public health scams.
  • Instruct your staff never to give personal information over the phone or click any links in messages.

Financial assistance scams

Federal and state agencies have been providing financial help to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, criminals have figured new scams to capitalize on this situation. Con artists will call and promise quick financial help for your business in exchange for an upfront payment or bank account information.

To protect your business:

  • Know that you will never have to pay upfront to receive government assistance for your business.
  • Tell your employees to hang up if someone calls and asks for private information.
  • Don’t believe promises to expedite government aid through an “inside track.”

CEO scams

CEO scams have been around since before the coronavirus. The pandemic, however, brought chaotic financial circumstances and a lack of face-to-face interaction — factors that make it easier for criminals to remain unnoticed. This scam starts with a business email or phone call that is spoofed to look like it’s from a top company executive. The message typically tells an employee to make an emergency fund transfer to the phony executive’s bank account.

With so many employees working from home, it’s not possible to go to the executive’s office and personally confirm that the email or call is legitimate.

To protect your business:

  • Educate your employees about CEO scams.
  • Have a dedicated phone number for verifying such requests.
  • Require a manager’s approval for transfers over a certain dollar amount.

IT scams

Con artists may pose as a member of your IT staff and convince an employee to download software or share a password. Cybercriminals do a little research online to help them sound like company insiders. For example, they may find out the names of a few staffers and say that “Jane sent me to troubleshoot your computer, so I’ll need your password.”

IT scams are another example of criminals taking advantage of pandemic-related distractions and workplace upheavals.

To protect your business:

  • Inform your staff about IT scams.
  • Make sure your employees can identify your IT staff.
  • Provide an in-house contact to verify IT-related communications.

Keeping your business safe

The COVID-19 pandemic has made cybersecurity more critical than ever. Putting proactive security measures in place can better protect your business and give you peace of mind. Contact us to learn how IND can help keep your business safe from criminals and scam artists.