Financial scams during the pandemic: preparing for a second wave.

Now that we’ve reached the mid-way point of 2020, I can’t help but feel as though we’re resting in the eye of the storm. By all means, we’ve largely done a fantastic job of responding to the situation. We’ve acted on our feet and through our ability to remain adaptive and resilient, we’ve still landed in a largely manageable position.

However, concerns of a second wave are certainly looming. Currently, we’re seeing USA cases spike to higher points than ever, and Victorians such as myself are re-entering lockdown in an attempt to curb off resurfacing cases in suburbian hotspots.

My concern, however, isn’t solely for the virus itself. It’s also in the ramifications surrounding COVID-19. For example, I’d be remiss to see many of the local bars, restaurants, and small businesses that barely survived the first leg of the year, be forced back into a lockdown.

I’d be remiss to see individuals who’ve had a hard time dealing with lockdown back in square-one of self-quarantine.

And I’d be remiss to see the huge damages of COVID-19 related scams resurface yet again.

This year saw a plethora of COVID-19 scams in 2020, ranging from government-impersonating phishing scams through to false promises of early superannuation access to those in need. For a frame of reference in just how damaging and successful these scams have been, March & April of 2019 saw Australians facing a total of $20,466,361 in damages at the hands of scammers.

That’s a huge amount of financial damage in of itself, yet in 2020, the same months of March & April saw total losses of $31, 176, 098! That’s a gigantic increase of over ten million dollars lost in scams.

And funnily enough, if you then view the drop in financial damages during May of this year, you end up with a curve that closely resembles new COVID-cases.

Financial losses per month as a result of scams in Australia. (Link)

Daily COVID-19 cases detected within Australia over recent months. (Link)

As Australia “beat the curve” and lowered COVID-19 cases in April, the financial damages lost to scams dropped significantly in the following month of May. The drop in COVID-19 cases likely corresponds to the waning number of successful scams.

As public concern over COVID-19 softens, so to does the insecurity among individuals that scammers are working so hard to exploit.

As Australian coronavirus lowered, it’s viable to say that our susceptibility to coronavirus scams did too.

But just as we need to remain vigilant and prepared for a second-wave of COVID-19 cases (which we can see beginning to spike again towards the end of the daily cases graph), we also need to remain vigilant and aware of our vulnerabilities to scammers.

Moving into the latter half of 2020, here are some tips you can use to spot and avoid malicious scams:

  • Remain calm: Scammers are largely successful in their efforts because they know how to target our insecurities. If you’re contacted about medical results, financial benefits, or anything else pertaining to COVID, make sure you take a step back to make a calm & informed decision
  • Verify the source: A lot of scams are currently impersonated both public & private entities that we’re familiar with in attempts to lower our guard. No matter where a message claims to be from, always keep in mind that it can be a scam, and needs to be verified via legitimate contact points, such as the phone number or email on the company’s website.
  • Stay up to date on current scams: Some of the most successful scams are also some of the most well-known, and keeping an eye on publicly known scams can help you identify the tactics being used by malicious attackers now. A fantastic source for staying on top of current scams is the Scamwatch website, which I’ve personally checked regularly during this pandemic.

For more information on cybersecurity, awareness, and staying safe online, visit cyberaware.com!

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