Security & Fraud

Online Retailers Scramble To Fight Coronavirus Scams

Coronavirus scams are on the rise

Online retailers have to be wary of scams centering around the deadly coronavirus as it now makes its way across the world.

Amazon has removed more than 1 million products related to the virus that it determined to contain fraudulent claims, according to Forbes. Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of Worldwide Customer Trust, said there were also tens of thousands of other products trying to price-gouge customers.

Mehta said the situation is “rapidly evolving,” and the company is staying vigilant against frauds.

Third-party sellers on sites like Amazon have been criticized for price-gouging on items like Purell hand sanitizer, which in some cases was sold for $100, Forbes reported. While third-party sellers aren’t affiliated with the company, people wondered if Amazon was benefiting from the price-gouging. The company said it was working to remove the price-gouging and stood against the practice.

In related news, The Wall Street Journal reported that the number of mentions of the coronavirus in malicious emails has jumped in recent weeks, according to cybersecurity firm Proofpoint.

The scams in question involve emails that initially appear to be from reputable businesses or organizations talking about the virus, but when the users open them, malware or other malicious hacking software is released.

Proofpoint recently assigned an analyst specifically to track coronavirus threats. That has not been done for prior events like natural disasters, disease outbreaks or other public events, according to Sherrod DeGrippo, the company’s senior director of Threat Research and Detection.

Proofpoint’s analyst now sees multiple scam emails referencing the coronavirus every day, according to the company.

Ryan McConnell, founder of Houston-based law group R. McConnell Group, explained that the lack of information about the coronavirus, mixed with conflicting claims from varying sources, has created an easy opening for criminals to take advantage of people.

The scams are wide and take on many forms. Emails doctored to look like a company purchase order for face masks, for example, could lead people to wire payments to a fake account. Individuals may inadvertently provide personal information to phishing accounts talking about fake company remote work plans.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is specifically warning people about face mask scams, particularly related to some scams that peddle counterfeit, low-quality masks that will not actually protect people from the virus. The BBB said some sites may accept payment and then send out the low-quality masks, while others might just never send anything at all. In other cases, the websites are just set up as ways for fraudsters to steal peoples’ personal information.

The BBB recommended a number of safeguards against scams, saying people should watch out for too-good-to-be-true claims like a “miracle cure” or things not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The BBB said people should only purchase from reputable sellers or sites and check with a doctor before buying anything virus-related.

McConnell said the coronavirus had become ripe pickings for scam artists as “people are scared,” so the risk was greater than usual for fraud.

The coronavirus has caused thousands of deaths and has also seen crippling effects leveled on economics.



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