BEWARE! Big jump in Covid-19 test email scams; how they did it and how you can avoid
With the Omicron variant running rampant across the nation, there has been a sharp increase in Covid-19 test email scams. During the past few weeks, the demand for Covid-19 tests, both RT-PCR (reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction) and RAT (rapid antigen test), have skyrocketed. This has again created a situation where demand has skyrocketed and hackers have emerged to use this fact to their advantage in order scam people in need of tests and they are doing this through Covid-19 test email scams.
In a recent press release, researchers from Barracuda Networks, a California-based IT-security firm, reported that these Covid-19 test related scams have witnessed an increase of 521% since October 2021. Check out their popular modus operandi and ensure your safety by not falling for similar scams.
How to avoid Covid-19 test email scams
With the rise of such Covid-19 test scams, it has become paramount to increase awareness around these scams to ensure your and your loved one’s safety. Highlighting the same and providing a way forward for the public, James Forbes-May, Vice President, APAC at Barracuda Networks said, “Covid-19 has disrupted everyone’s health and mental sanity for almost 2 years now. The latest variant has brought yet another opportunity for the scammers to take advantage of the people seeking COVID-19 tests. So, it is crucial to stay mindful while clicking on suspicious links or opening attachments in these unexpected emails and divulging any personal information when seeking a test, regardless of it being a legitimate site.”
Covid-19 test email scams: How cybercriminals did it
The researchers explained the various methods these hackers use in order to fool unsuspecting victims through email scams.
1. Many such hackers send emails with offers on Covid-19 tests, masks and gloves. Pretending to be sellers of these products, oftentimes they send out counterfeit or unauthorized products. Others do not even send any product and simply stop responding. People in desperate need of these tests even make advance payments and fall for these scams.
2. Another method these hackers use is to send out fake notifications of unpaid orders of Covid-19 tests. As test kits are already in shortage, some people who receive these emails falsely believe that they can get some test kits due to an accidental error from the seller. They make payment on the link provided only to find out later that it was a scam.
3. A scarier method implemented by these hackers is also to impersonate healthcare workers and lab test providers. They ask for money to share fake test results for people. But the impersonation does not stop here. As some companies are attempting to get the employees back to office, the HR department has been sharing updated Covid-19 policies and asking employees to share vaccination status and negative test results. Some hackers hijack these conversations to extort money from these employees.
4. “In one specific example found in Barracuda’s research, cybercriminals impersonated an HR department and shared a file hosted on a phishing site with employees in hope of stealing their account credentials. The attackers went as far as impersonating the Office 365 logo and stating that the document has already been scanned for virus and spam content,” the press release read.