Protecting yourself from cyber criminals amid the pandemic

Published October 10, 2021, 12:11 AM

by Art Samaniego

The pandemic has dramatically changed the way we work and learn.  It forced many of us to use technology that we don’t completely understand, and cybercriminals are more than willing to use this ignorance to scam us.

Being a victim of cybercrime is like having the COVID-19. Once infected, it is not only us who could be affected but also the people close to us. These are the people we regularly engage with on social media — that’s our family, friends, and relatives.

Here are some examples of scams used by cybercriminals amid the pandemic. The scammers will try to gain your trust to get sensitive information and eventually use this information to access your financial records and steal from you.

Love scam:
Loneliness amid the pandemic is real, and scammers know this. Cybercriminals are targeting people who are posting about being alone and openly looking for love online. While most of the victims are women above 50 years old, there are cases of Filipino seafarers as young as 20 years old who were scammed by cybercriminals pretending to be women looking for relationships.  Here are some red flags that you need to be aware of: 1) your cyber sweetheart’s profile is too good to be true, 2) the relationship is moving fast, 3) he promises to see you but breaks that promise 4) he asks for money, and 5) he requires specific payment methods or ask for your credit card details.  If you see any of these in your relationship with your cyber sweetheart, be ready to be heartbroken. More often than not, he or she is a scammer.

Nigerian scam:
This is an old modus but still effective in scamming people. It plays upon the greed of the receiver. This is also known as an advance fee scam where the scammer requests help in facilitating the transfer of a large amount of money. In return, you would be offered to get a commission. The scammers would then ask that you send money to pay some of the costs associated with the transfer.  The scammers would then disappear once you send the money. If you received an unsolicited email from unknown individuals claiming to be an heir of someone, don’t reply.  Block the sender as this is a scam.

Extortion scam:
When you receive an email that threatens to make embarrassing information public unless you pay up, it’s an extortion scam.  Scammers would claim that they have accessed your camera and recorded what you’re doing while watching pornographic videos. To make the extortion believable, the scammer may include an old password to make you believed that hackers had accessed your computer. The old password could come from a prior compromise of an unrelated service that you are subscribed to. If this happens to you, don’t worry; this is a scam.

Investment scam:
You usually get this scam from emails and instant messaging apps offering you to invest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The scammers will give you an offer of an exaggerated return-on-investment rate such as “2% daily” or “30% month. But as the saying goes, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Remember, don’t fall easily into any investment offer. You’ve worked hard to earn your money, so work harder in protecting them. Be prudent in doing basic research to verify that the investment offer you get is legitimate.

Account failure scam:
This phishing scam would tell you to immediately update your information to avoid being locked out from your bank accounts. The email would look like an official email from your bank with a legitimate-looking link that you need to click.  Once you click the link, you will be directed to a fake page that looks like your bank’s webpage.  You need to be aware of these red flags: 1) the sentence construction; your bank would not commit plain grammar errors in their official communications. 2)  the link that looks like an official URL of your bank but with slight alteration, and 3) the link itself that may look official, but once you hover your mouse on top of the link, it would show a different website address. If you noticed any of these, delete the email.  If you receive an email informing you that your account failed, call your bank immediately.

There are other scams out there that could trick even the most educated users. So, don’t give any information if you receive a call, direct message, or email asking for your details. Remember that your bank would not ask for your password or other personal information via social media, email, or phone call. Please report it to your bank thru its official email address or call the customer service representative using the number on its website.

Banks and other financial institutions are aware of these online threats and all l of them have efforts to educate users on how to use the internet safely.

Metrobank, one of the largest Philippine banks for example, has anti-fraud awareness program to inform not only it’s clients but all internet users on how to be responsible internet users.

 Cybercrime is the other pandemic that we all have to worry about. We all need to be careful while using the internet.  Let’s join Metrobank in the fight against fraud. 

For suspected fraud, call Metrobank Contact Center at (02) 88-700-700, 1-800-1888-5775,or email them at [email protected] using “Report on Possible Fraud” as subject. Visit https://metrobank.com.ph/learn/fight-fraud for more fraud tips, news and advisories.

 
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