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Covid-19 Scams, Threat to Small Businesses

Covid-19 or Coronavirus scams have been on the increase everywhere in the world, and Small Businesses everywhere are affected by these Scams. Find out below what the scams are and how to avoid them.

This is an edited transcript from a video blog recording of Sarb Sembhi, CTO and the CISO for Virtually Informed, and his co-host Nick Ioannou, Head of IT at Ratcliffe Groves, the square brackets with the initials indicate the speaker.

Introduction to Covid-19 Scams Targeting Small Businesses

[SS]: Hello and welcome to Security and Risk Blog (SaRB) for Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMB's). Today we are looking at Covid-19 scams. There's a lot of scams around, and many of them are targeting anyone and everyone, and especially Small Businesses because not only are they're no exception, but they are also desperately looking to benefit from Government Schemes. I'm going to pass over to Nick to start us off, so tell us more Nick.

UK Government Messages Helped Attackers

[NI]: Like in many countries around the world, the UK government decided to offer aid to Businesses. However, not all countries did what the UK Government decided to do, it sent a text message to absolutely everyone it had a mobile number for, with some Covid-19 information.

And because, cybercriminals can spoof a mobile text message number (this is one of the factors that makes text messaging so insecure), this meant that they could then send out a message which would appear in the same feed as the previous one from the government which then makes it look as if it too came from the Government. Criminals were sending out everything from, You are now eligible for a cash grant or Covid-19 advice or Where to buy PPE or, sanitizer gel. Basically, these criminals were promoting anything that they could think of; they maximized the whole Covid-19 situation to their benefit.

By opening up the trend that members of the public get these messages from government, local government, HMRC, criminals have jumped on the bandwagon, sending fake information that your business is eligible for, whether it's the local taxes, or you won't have to pay VAT for so many months or any of the other many legitimate reasons that the business has to interact with the government or HMRC. They've mocked up fake versions of texts, emails and messages, they've really gone to town on these.

Covid-19 Scams are a Bigger Issue Than Businesses Realise

[SS] It's interesting that it's become such a big problem that the National Cyber Security Centre in the UK has decided to provide a report and guidance on this. They don't often tend to worry about this sort of thing unless it's a big enough problem and obviously it has become a big enough problem.

Some of the messages I've received come through to our business email accounts I oversee, include messages to provide me with masks and other protective equipment, to protect ourselves against Covid-19.and also if I want to be a supplier.

They make offers for all sorts of equipment and they are companies I've never heard of and places I don't know about. And it's all coming out now because they see it as a big opportunity to be able to scam people who see an opportunity in getting hold of this secret supply of equipment. On the belief that they can set themselves up as a service, whichever country they're in, and become successful businesses by selling a much needed high in demand product because they've now got themselves as a supplier who can provide all this for them.

This works on people's opportunistic feelings, whether it's opportunistic in terms of a business opportunity or opportunistic in taking advantage of government money that's been made available in some shape or form.

Furloughed Schemes Push Scams

[NI]: Now that the Furlough Scheme in the UK is live criminals are turning to that, where they're either redirecting people to a fake application website or they're offering spreadsheets and services that complete the application on your behalf. 

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