Honestly, if there’s anything helping us keep calm during this crisis, it’s got to be the internet! We’re working online remotely from our homes, using zoom calls to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues, placing grocery orders through websites and apps, catching up on our favorite shows and movies online… We could go on and on.

Unfortunately, while everyone’s lives today revolve around being online, there are a handful of scammers looking to take undue advantage of the situation.

People all around the world are losing huge chunks of their hard-earned money to Covid-19 related online scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have reportedly lost over USD 13 Million in Coronavirus-linked online scams so far. Similar scams have already surfaced in the UAE too, which makes it all the more important to address the issue and build awareness around it.

The Souqalmal team has uncovered the most common online scams doing the rounds these days. We explain the modus-operandi behind these scams and how you can avoid becoming the next victim.

Phishing emails with a Covid-19 twist

This is the online scam you need to be most wary of. Phishing emails are the most common type of online fraud in the world. Today, these phishing scams have evolved to tap into Covid-19 fears, money-related concerns and the general anxiety amongst online users.

How do phishing emails work?

A typical phishing email will appear to come from a legitimate source, such as your bank, a government authority or a well-known brand/company. The email will ask you to provide sensitive information – Your online banking login credentials, credit card details, personal identity information and such. You may be directed towards a link that takes you to a fake web page where you’ll be asked to enter the aforementioned details. You could also be asked to open an attachment that will end up installing malware on your device, compromising all your sensitive data on it.

Don’t fall for these Coronavirus-linked phishing scams

Below, we take a look at some of the most notorious phishing scams in the UAE and around the world…

“Your flight is cancelled, get your refund

Various UAE residents have reported receiving an email from scammers pretending to represent Emirates Airlines. These emails offer the recipients a refund for their cancelled flight. It’s an obvious fake – Watch out for the bogus email address. Officials from Emirates Airlines state that all email correspondence from the airline is sent from two addresses only – [email protected] or [email protected]

Scammers impersonating the WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning people to steer clear of fraudulent emails being sent by scammers claiming to represent the organization. These emails may try to trick users into donating by clicking on a link that takes them to a fake web page. Other emails try to get users to download ‘WHO’ guides and e-books on Covid-19 prevention through attachments – These are clearly an attempt to install malware on your device. Among a number of important guidelines issued on fraud prevention, the WHO states that it will never ask you to visit a link outside of www.who.int.

Financial stimulus & debt relief scams

Governments, central banks and commercial banks around the world, have announced various financial relief measures, and scammers have seen a big opportunity in this. Watch out for unsolicited emails claiming to reduce your debt or offer you a stimulus amount to be deposited in your bank account. Their only aim is to get your bank details and rob you of your savings.

Covid-19 charity scams

Scammers impersonating reputed charity organizations are reaching out to unsuspecting people, asking for donations. But instead of going to the needy, your money is going into their pockets. Always make sure the charity you are donating to, is legitimate by checking if it is registered within the country it operates in. And make the donation through the charity’s official website only, never through a link provided in a dodgy-looking email.

Scammy work-from-home opportunities

Many people have now been rendered jobless or have been forced to take pay cuts or go on unpaid leave indefinitely. Scammers are targeted this vulnerable segment by offering fake work-from-home employment opportunities. These scammy emails promise the user a fixed source of income, but ask them to deposit a training or equipment fee first. Chances are you’ll never hear back from the scammers once you deposit the money. So if you are in fact looking for work, remember to only go through trusted job search websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor or Indeed.

Tips for spotting and avoiding phishing scams

Here are some tips to avoid being scammed online…

  • Do not reveal your sensitive personal & financial details online – Legitimate organizations will never ask for this.
  • Do not click on links or download attached files in suspicious emails.
  • Look out for obvious grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Don’t fall for ‘urgent’ requests – Scammers try to get you to act fast by creating a sense of urgency and panic.
  • You can send an email to the organization’s official email address or call their toll-free number to verify the email’s authenticity.