During any widely publicized news event or hardship, fraudsters seek to take advantage of the public’s financial stress, curiosity and feelings of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has been no different. While you should always be vigilant about your online security, hackers and scammers have increased their efforts to take advantage of small businesses in particular. We’ve compiled a list of things for you to be cautious about to protect your data and your business.
1. Requests for money
During the current pandemic, there have been reports of email campaigns asking for money. Whether it’s a communication asking for donations related to victims or front-line workers, it’s important to research the group yourself and find the official website, rather than click a link in an email to make donations. Don’t click through on emails asking you to “pay off your balance.” The same goes for payment requests associated with the coronavirus—if you’re ever in doubt, call your bank or the institution requesting payment.
2. Relief funding hackers
Emails that have impersonated everyone from the SBA to respected financial institutions have been circulating and promising thousands of dollars in relief funds. Typically, these messages are designed for you to click through so the hacker can deploy malicious software or malware on your network. Additionally, scammers ask for personal information in association with these emails, including “account verification” to transfer the relief funds, only to hack their accounts. Never offer any personal information or account details until you have contacted the institution directly.
3. Federal government relief scams
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has stated, “If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond.” Also, the government will never ask you for information or money to expedite your stimulus payment.
4. IRS and tax scams
The IRS isn’t going to call or send you an email asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get your tax refund faster. Remember, don’t open them or click on attachments or links, simply delete the email. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.
5. Hackers and your business deliveries
The current pandemic has also resulted in an increase in scam text messages and phone calls related to the coronavirus when it comes to businesses receiving deliveries. Fraudsters pretend to be delivery companies with an urgent package that is delayed. They then ask their victims for sensitive information to process orders and use that information to hack their accounts.
6. Business tech support
Right now, businesses need all the support they can get. Unfortunately, there are even tech support scams that can compromise your network or laptop. Let’s say you have a legitimate technical issue and need to contact online or telephone tech support. Don’t conduct an internet search for a company’s tech support line. Scammers are hoping you’ll do just that—and fall into their trap by calling the number and providing access to your accounts. Go to the company’s website to get the contact information.
The bottom line
Because of the current environment, internet use has increased dramatically. We're all online more often, so hackers and scammers are making more attempts to find businesses to willingly provide private information. BB&T will never ask you for personal information by email. There are more and more of these fraudsters popping up – protect yourself and your business by staying vigilant. Create unique randomized passwords for your accounts. Contact institutions directly. And be safe.
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The information provided is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. BB&T hopes you find this information useful but we cannot guarantee that it is accurate, up to date, or appropriate for your situation. You should consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor to understand how the law applies to your particular circumstances or for financial information specific to your personal or business situation.
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