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The new coronavirus rip-off you need to watch out for

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People across America are staying indoors to protect themselves from COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe from economic strife. More than 10 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last three weeks and scammers seem hellbent on making the economic pain even worse.

Because of the massive spike in home internet use and widespread fears of the virus, hackers and fraudsters are taking advantage of the situation with a flood of scam websites and phishing plots. Tap or click to see how they’re working a stimulus check scam.

And now, another widely-loathed scheme is skyrocketing in popularity thanks to a boom in online ordering. Using hidden malware, hackers are able to skim your credit cards without you knowing it. We’ll show you how they’re doing it and how to stay safe from the fraud epidemic online.

Forget the gas station: Online stores are vectors for skimming fraud

Online shopping has become a force for stability in the lives of many housebound Americans. With retail down for the count and stay-at-home orders in place, outlets like Amazon have become the preferred way to safely restock supplies.

This sudden change comes with a serious downside, however: A surge in fraud and cybercrime.

Cybersecurity researchers at Malwarebytes recently discovered a malicious file implanted in the online store of the popular household brand Tupperware. This file acted as a virtual credit card skimmer that stole numbers entered by customers and ferried the data to a host somewhere in Russia.

Malwarebytes indicated virtual card skimmers are likely to grow in popularity due to the boom in online shopping. Websites that are already compromised will no doubt accelerate their malicious behavior and checkout pages on untouched websites will soon become high-priority targets.

This kind of cyberattack, called a “Magecart attack,” was already common pre-COVID-19. In our current state, these kinds of attacks will only become more frequent, which goes hand-in-hand with emerging fraud cases around the world. Tap or click for information on another dangerous Magecart attack.

What are the odds of fraud?

Not only are Magecart attacks on the rise, but so are cybercrimes and fraud in general. According to a news bulletin posted by the FTC, nearly 8,000 consumers submitted coronavirus-related fraud reports since March 24, which doubles the previous week’s numbers.

Based on these complaints, the FTC measured nearly $4.77 million in losses from coronavirus-related fraud alone, with $598 being the median amount stolen.

The FTC urges any fraud victims to immediately report the situation. This will help the agency assess the full scope of the threat and be better prepared to assist consumers with stopping the crimes and helping recover damages.

What can I do to stay safe?

The FTC lists several steps consumers can take to stay ahead of the curve and avoid getting robbed. Here are a few of the most important to remember:

  • Ignore calls, text messages, emails and social media alerts from people and groups you don’t recognize. This goes double if anyone contacts you claiming to be from the government. The United States government will only ever reach out to you by letter correspondence.
  • Fact-check information and stay informed. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers and fraudsters prey on ignorance to make a living.
  • Never click on links from sources you’re not closely familiar with. Any unknown link could be a potential phishing scam.

For more information on internet safety rules, tap or click here.

As for Magecart attacks like the kind experienced by Tupperware, it can be very difficult to tell if a page has been compromised. Your best bet is to rely on your own system’s defenses and to set up additional hurdles to keep fraudsters at bay:

  • Avoid shopping around on too many websites and refrain from entering the same payment information in multiple places. Large, mainstream websites like Amazon tend to have far more robust security.
  • Keep your anti-malware software, like Windows Defender or Malwarebytes, running and up to date. These can catch system attacks in the act. Tap or click here for more information on Windows Defender.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit card and bank statements so you’re on top of any funny business that might occur.

For an extra layer of security, you might even want to rely on a secure payment system like Paypal, which acts as a middleman for any transactions you make. If fraud occurs, Paypal has an entire division dedicated to handling it, and they can reverse fraudulent charges if necessary. Tap or click here to discover the safest ways to pay online.

Ultimately, the internet is only as safe as you make it. If you tread cautiously and keep your defenses up, you should be perfectly safe. Get too reckless or carefree and you might just be helping a scammer make rent for the month.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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