The coronavirus outbreak has put the world upside down, and scammers are exploiting the confusion to take advantage of people, targeting them with phishing attempts and malware attacks.
Read on to learn more about the most common scams and threats so you can defend yourself and your business from cyber-criminals.
Scams Related to Economic Impact Payments
The IRS has warned about phishing attempts related to Economic Impact Payments, the U.S. government stimulus that helps taxpayers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Scammers target retirees in particular with emails, text messages o social media messages purporting to come from reputable institutions. They ask the unsuspect recipients to share their personal information, which they then proceed to use with malicious intent. The following are some red flags that give away a phishing message.
- The term Economic Impact Payment is not put in writing. Instead, they use alternatives such as “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.”
- A fake check with an odd amount is mailed to you, and you are instructed to call a number or verify information online to cash it
- They ask you to check your Economic Impact Payment to someone else.
- You’re asked by phone, email or social media to verify your information in order to receive or speed up your payment.
Ransomware and Malware
In a joint statement, the governments of the U.S. and U.K. have informed that cyber-criminals are targeting individuals and organizations with ransomware and malware during the coronavirus outbreak.
Typically, the criminals send emails that supposedly come from a trustworthy institution, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), claiming to offer thermometers and face masks to help fight the pandemic.
The messages are also known to include attachments with names such as ‘zoom-us-zoom_##########.exe’ and ‘microsoft-teams_V#mu#D_##########.exe’ that are actually malware or ransomware.
These emails usually contain the following terms in the subject field.
- 2020 Coronavirus Updates
- Coronavirus Updates
- 2019-nCov: New confirmed cases in your City
- 2019-nCov: Coronavirus outbreak in your city (Emergency)
In order to thwart cyber threats, the Department of Homeland Security of the United States recommends using only official sources of information and refraining from engaging the senders of suspect messages. Phishing attempts related to taxes and Economic Impact Payments can be reported by email to the IRS using the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The response to COVID-19 changes constantly, so it’s important to stay updated. You can check the IRS website or this blog. It’s also a good idea to get advice from an expert who can help you get advantage of the relief initiatives unrolled by the government.
At Meadville Tax Services we have the know-how and the drive to assist you so you can file your taxes efficiently, limiting your tax liability while staying compliant with federal tax regulations.