COVID-19 related scams con Americans out of $358 million in the last 12 months

One of the world’s leading two-factor-authentication firms has revealed that early access vaccine scams are the most prevalent scam to be wary of, after the FTC reported that COVID-19 related scams have conned the American people out of more than $358 million* in the past 12 months, on average $322 per victim.

A world-leading two-factor-authentication platform has revealed that COVID-19 related scams have conned the American people out of more than $358 million* in the past 12 months.

The research, conducted by Rublon, revealed that COVID-19 scams, including early vaccine trials and antibody tests, left victims out of pocket by $322 on average in 2020.

Research from FTC (Federal Trade Commission) reports that instances of people losing money to scams started on social media have continued to increase during the pandemic. Statistics show that Americans reported $134 million in losses to social media fraud  in 2019, however in the first six months of 2020 alone, citizens had already reported losses of over $117 million**.

The ‘early access vaccine’ scam topped the list of the most prevalent COVID-19 scam, which began after the U.S. Government granted emergency authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccines to go ahead, and entailed emails, texts, and calls from fake organisations promising unsuspecting Americans early access to a vaccine.

The platform’s research released a list of the pandemic cyber scams people should look out for in 2021, and the scams which people fell victim to the most while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A ‘tech support’ scam targeting remote workers ranked in second place on the list, followed by a ‘COVID-19 trial invitation’ scam, where members of the public would be invited to take part in tests relating to COVID-19.

The five most common pandemic cyber scams, and a brief description of each, are:

  1. Early access vaccine – A series of emails, texts, letters or phone calls claiming to have access to COVID-19 vaccines before official Government sources.

  2. Tech support – Emails, texts and adverts stating that a person’s device is infected/in need of repair. The scammers will ask the owner of the device to download remote access software, allowing them to install real viruses in order to compromise one’s personal information.

  3. COVID-19 trials – This scam either states people could be paid to take part in COVID-19 test trials, or to take part in an official antibody test – however once a person opens a dialogue with the scammers this is when the scam begins.

  4. Phishing – A long-used tactic for gaining access to people’s personal data, phishing involves the scammer taking on the persona of a known-person, ie; your boss, nephew, or friend. Most commonly scammers will send a link acting as a trusted person, in order to encourage people to click the link – potentially downloading viruses and malicious hardware onto their device.

  5. COVID-19 cure – This scam involves texts, emails, and fake adverts in order to get people to buy, or register interest in, a ‘Coronavirus Cure’. Sometimes people will receive a product of some kind, claiming to be a cure, while others will simply have their information/money stolen. These products are not real, and do not cure any diseases.

A full list of the ten most common pandemic cyber scams can be found here:

Rublon’s fraud team also interrogated Google search term and keyword data to reveal which States in the U.S. were most concerned about scams in the last twelve months. When looking into which States had been searching for ‘scams’ the most, Rublon discovered that Delaware topped the list, followed by Nevada and Wyoming.

Going deeper into the search term and keyword data, Rublon also discovered that searches for ‘trap phishing’ had risen by more than 5,000% in the United States, while the number of searches for ‘barrel phishing’ had risen by more than 2,250%. Searches for ‘report PayPal phishing’ and ‘report phishing to PayPal’ had also risen by more than 550% and 300%, respectively.

Rublon is a two-factor authentication system that acts as an additional security layer which protects the password-based login process to web applications. The platform’s mission is to ensure all people are able to keep their data safely protected online, without worry or stress.

Michal Wendrowski, Managing Director of Rublon, founder of Rublon, said,

“The last 12 months have been challenging for all of us, and we’ve really had to pull together to try and get through it. However, the struggle we’ve all been going through seems to have only emboldened scammers more.

“Here at Rublon we want to make sure people were able to keep their data safely online, without having to worry about scammers or intruders ever gaining access to their accounts.

“While we have seen an increase in scammer activity, we’re hopeful that the more people that are aware of the common scams, and how to spot them,  we’ll see less and less of these scams impacting people’s lives every day.”

Interesting Related Article: “Cybersecurity and Phishing Warnings During COVID