The global pandemic has resulted in the increased need for access to the internet. We’ve all been aware of the critical role in which the internet plays in our daily lives long before Covid-19 was trending. Whether you are streaming music, banking online, staying in contact with loved ones or shopping online, everyone can agree that the internet has a multitude of uses.
During the lockdown, Vodacom reported a 40% increase in data usage – but it’s not only the data usage which has been increasing. In the same time, cybersecurity companies have reported increases in scams, fraud and impersonation crimes. Although it’s on the rise now, it will remain a risk long after the Covid-19 pandemic has ended.
Cybercrimes pose a significant risk to our financial wellbeing. These criminals exploit less experienced internet users – the uncertainty and fear around the pandemic has made targeting the vulnerable even easier nowadays. As cybercrime grows in sophistication, there are areas and opportunities that cyber criminals are specifically targeting.
Communicating with service providers online
As companies shift towards communicating with clients through online means, many clients are exposed to impersonation scams and fraud. It’s important to note how these companies intend on communicating with you. This would require them to detail what information they will never ask for through online means, the communication channels which they will use (e.g. video, email or SMS) and how often they will communicate with you.
Changes in these details should be flagged as potential threats. Lean on the side of caution and contact the company if you think you’ve been exposed to a threat. This feedback is important as it helps the company manage and deal with the threat promptly.
Cyber criminals are also preying on less tech-savvy internet users who are searching for coronavirus news and information. Use publicly recommended sites and refrain from clicking on suspicious advertisements or entering personal information on these sites. Your fear of missing out on being up to date with the latest information shouldn’t lead you to act in a risky manner online.
Fake online retailers
There has been an increase in online sellers advertising fake or non-existent protective equipment including face masks, testing kits and hand sanitiser. Stick with retailers which have a strong track record, have existed long before the pandemic and have good reviews.
But don’t just support the big retailers. Now, more than ever, should be the time when we need to start supporting small, local businesses. Ensure that they are using well-established payment channels and communicate directly with them should you be unsure of any payment-related issues.
Employment proposals, dating sites and charities
With unemployment on the rise, cybercrimes involving the promise of employment are also on the rise. Verify the authenticity of an employer before giving sensitive or personal information to them. The same should be done for potential criminals posing as charitable organisations looking for donations. Dating sites are also where many fall prey to individuals posing as someone they’re not and asking users for personal information and/or payments.
On a final note, you should also refrain from clicking on email links from suspicious senders, responding to unknown texts or giving anyone any financial/personal information over the phone or on an internet site. Do the necessary checks and verify websites with trusted and tech-savvy friends and family before giving information to companies or sites you haven’t heard of before.