COVID-19 Scams Proliferating Online, Lawmakers Told

Scams related to COVID-19 are proliferating online, with fraudsters becoming both “more aggressive and more targeted,” Stu Sjouwerman, founder and CEO of security company KnowBe4, told the Senate Tuesday.

“COVID-19 phishers prey on both consumers and employees and have sought private information through targeting passport details, the healthcare industry, [and] social media channels, and we can expect to see them use current and future COVID-19 lawsuits as bait in spear phishing attacks,” he said in written testimony submitted to the Senate Commerce Committee's subcommittee on manufacturing, trade, and consumer protection, which held a hearing Tuesday about protecting Americans from COVID-19 scams.

Sjouwerman specifically said more than 192,000 phishing attacks related to COVID-19 occurred each week in the last month.

He added that fraudsters often are revising phishing emails they ran before last December, when COVID-19 first appeared, but with new “social engineering schemes” relating to the virus.

“Everyone should remain very skeptical of any email related to COVID-19 coming into their inbox,” he stated.

Earlier this month, Microsoft said it obtained a court order allowing it to take control of domains used for scams, including ones relating to the pandemic.

The hearing didn't just address phishing scams, but also sales of fake cures.

Laura MacCleery, policy director for Center for Science in the Public Interest, called for tech companies to more aggressively police products sold online.

“Our market scan of products on Amazon in late May found at least 46 dietary supplements making illegal antiviral claims, so we sent our findings to the agencies and wrote Amazon directly to ask the company to remove these products,” she stated in her written testimony. “Unfortunately, a subsequent search of Amazon performed on June 29th found that 26 of those supplements are still making antiviral claims on their own websites, Amazon, or other online stores.”

She added: “Because consumers rely on them so much today, platforms such as Amazon, Ebay, Facebook and Etsy must do a far better job of removing misleading claims and products being sold and marketed through their sites, and we urge Congress and the agencies to hold them accountable for doing so.”

Next story loading loading..