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Online scams skyrocket during the Covid-19 pandemic

. Jun 14, 2020
online scams Image: Astrovector/Shutterstock

With millions of people stuck at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a new surge in online transactions accompanied by a similar uptake in online scams and phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks, the use of emails or links to steal personal data, have risen 70 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Brazilian Banks Federation (Febraban). Online scams have also increased at a staggering rate through calls or messages using themes like Covid-19 or the federal government’s emergency salary.

Among the most popular scams: 39 percent used the word “Covid-19,” 36 percent had “salary,” and 33 percent mentioned the federal bank Caixa, according to figures from the Data Refinery company.   

As a result, Data Refinery points out that between March 20 and May 18, Dark Web searches for Brazilians personal bank account information have risen 108 percent. Regular search figures have increased from 9 million during pre-pandemic times to 19,2 million amid the pandemic.

Usually, the individual attempting to steal personal data through the scam is actually not the guy who will make use of the stolen personal information. Personal information purchases are a typical transaction on the Dark Web. The surge in virtual scams has reactivated more than 250 dormant Dark Web illegal data marketplaces. Tracking phishing and scam attempts have become even harder.

According to Daniel Marchetti from the Brazilian Credit Card Companies Association – according to newspaper O Estado de São Paulo — Brazilians rapid migration to online spending during the pandemic has made them more vulnerable to scams asking for personal information or cash transfers. However, the good news is that this new reality will prompt companies and baking institutions to improve their security and communication efforts to protect customers from virtual scams. 

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Rafael Lima

Rafael is a Communication student at Wake Forest University, and a student fellow of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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