Fraud schemes and scams
The number of frauds recorded has fallen significantly during the emergency situation while people's awareness of fraud schemes has increased. Criminals design their schemes according to what is happening in society, and this leads to a variety of frauds in which the coronavirus is used to defraud people. Some older schemes are also used to deceive people.
Sale of non-existent items: masks, tests and pets
The global crisis has brought a great demand for personal protective equipment and disinfectants. Various masks, disinfectants and coronavirus tests are available for sale on e-shops and are also offered by phone. The prices of these products are usually high and it should be taken into account that the product may not be of good quality or may not exist at all. People have been offered domestic Covid-19 tests, sold on behalf of a well-known company, but these cases have been turned out to be scams.
All offers related to the coronavirus must be viewed critically. Before purchasing an item, you must take into account the risk that the product is not of good quality or the goods may not arrive at all.
You should be extremely cautious if someone offers to sell you pets or items which are considerably cheaper than their market value or which are offered free of charge on the condition that you pay for the postage costs, insurance or customs duties. For instance, it was reported on 10 March that a website advertisement had offered to give away a free parrot, however, it had only been a pretext to defraud 400 euros for the coverage of transport and insurance expenses. The buyer never received the parrot.
Malware distributors are taking advantage of the situation where the consumption of coronavirus-related information is high. At the beginning of March, many people received an email, the sender of which imitated to be the pharmacy chain Euroapteek. The email allegedly contained information about the spread of the virus, approved by the Ministry of Health. It also contained a malicious document or a link.
When you receive such a message, pay attention to the address bar. For instance, this email came from a specially created fake address euroapteek(at)protonmail.com. It is also worth paying attention to the spelling and factual errors in the messages, because if these are present, there is a high likelihood that you are dealing with fraud.
Malware provides access to passwords and data on your computer. If you receive a message from a suspicious and unknown address, delete the message without any further thought.
Account and payroll account fraud
Fraudsters are taking advantage of the situation where many people work remotely and much of the communication takes place online. For instance, we are seeing widespread fraud in which a company's accountant receives a letter from the CEO asking for a quick transfer of funds to an unknown account. In reality, the letter is sent by a fraudster who has created a fake email address, and the employee is rushed to make the payment.
You should always check the sender of the email, call your employer, if necessary, and make sure that such a transfer is strictly necessary.
There have also been cases where a fraudster has called and introduced himself as an IT specialist and offered the opportunity to check the computer’s security settings. Its purpose has been to gain remote access to the computer.
Payroll account fraud is also common. In those cases, an employee asks the HR manager to transfer their payroll to a new account, but in reality the letter has been sent by a fraudster.
A person is contacted by phone and offered a high-yield investment opportunity. The caller usually speaks Russian and the fraudster promises that you would become rich in just a few days and without much effort. The person is asked to download a remote desktop tool AnyDesk or TeamViewer to their computer. The fraudster takes over the computer desktop and gains access to the person's bank account from which he will start making transfers.
The fraudsters give you the impression that the "invested" money is growing fast and encourage you to keep investing. The fraudsters manipulate people to gain their trust and keep them hooked for as long as they possibly can. The goal is to get as much money from one person as possible.
At the beginning of the emergency situation, offers for the provision of cleaning services spread on the Internet and by telephone. We checked the ads and communicated with the providers to determine their objectives. In many cases, the company making the offer was newly established, which in turn could mean a lack of experience and competence to provide the service.
In order to avoid being exploited while receiving a poor quality service, we ask you to be critical towards the various offers and to purchase such services from experienced and reliable providers.
We ask people to follow simple advice to protect their assets:
- If you receive an offer that promises high returns quickly or a product that is difficult to access, be careful.
- Do not transfer information about your ID-card, PIN codes, other identity documents, photos of credit cards, etc. to strangers.
- Do not make any transfers until you have checked the background of the particular company.
- Do not download any programs (TeamViewer or AnyDesk) to your computer at the request of an unknown person that allow them to take over your computer desktop.
- If you receive a suspicious call, end the call immediately, block the number and report such a call to the Police and Border Guard Board’s hotline at 6123000 or forward the information via the website https://cyber.politsei.ee/en.
- If you have suffered damage, contact the police.