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Global Covid Benefits Scams: How to Spot Them and What to Do

The COVID crisis has affected almost everyone around the globe. Small businesses were shuttered for weeks or months and many people could no longer work because of shutdowns. With a second wave of the COVID crisis, there is much uncertainty and governments are providing benefits to individuals and small business owners to allay any hardship caused by a shortfall. 

However, many of these benefits payments never reached their intended recipients. COVID benefits have been a virtual goldmine to crypto scams and some of the most notorious fraudsters have called retrieving benefits from other people “easy money.” 

If someone else has claimed your benefits, there is hope for fund recovery. Professionals at Pengeretur provide information to consumers about credit card chargebacks, cryptocurrency refunds, wire recalls, and other fund recovery strategies. We advise clients on the chargeback process and the best ways to pursue fund recovery whether the issue is merchant or broker dispute or if the charges were unauthorized.

How Widespread Are Covid Benefits Scams? 

The United States government issued $900 million in benefits to provide relief for Americans who found themselves out of work or who faced increased expenses as a result of the pandemic. 

Of the $900 million issued, it is still uncertain how many were stolen, but experts estimate it may be between $80 million and $400 million. This is staggering and is a testament to the huge number of cybercriminals out there and the ease with which they can fake consumers’ identities to carry out these benefits scams. 

How Do Covid Benefit Scams Work? 

One of the largest networks of Covid benefit scams was masterminded by Abedemi Rufai a Nigerian government official. The FBI got a warrant for Rufai’s files which revealed a massive theft of sensitive information of consumers, including tax and social security details, and a total of $350,000 stolen from consumers. 

Rufai’s Covid benefit theft was one of many scam networks intended to defraud consumers around the world. Part of the problem is the weakness of verification systems in place that can let scammers get through. The other problem is the sheer scope of cyber fraud and the increasing skill with which these scammers seize information and claim benefits. 

The first step in any benefit scam is to get information from the target. Scammers may hack websites that can contain sensitive data such as eCommerce sites or social media platforms. Once they have this information, they can collect the benefits from the person without their knowing about it. 

However, getting information purely through hacking may be incomplete. For instance, just having some contact information or even a social security number may not be enough to secure someone else’s benefits without a photo ID. Sometimes, the easiest way a scammer can get all of the information they need at one time is through phishing. 

Phishing allows scammers to get all of the data they need from the consumer so they can quickly get benefits. The cybercriminal will contact the intended target through the telephone, email, or text. They may claim to be from a government office and have logos and headings on an email that may look identical to actual government emails. The scammer will impersonate a government official and ask for verification of data. Once the consumer fills in a fake form or gives the data directly, 

Once the Cybercriminal has this information, they can go ahead and claim the funds. The victim often doesn’t find out until they do not receive their benefits, contact a government office only to find out that the benefits have already been claimed. 

How to Avoid Covid Benefits Scams

What is staggering about benefits scams is how widespread they are and how easily they take money from clients. With phishing scams, you can more easily see the signs because you are contacted directly by the scammer. Here are some ways to avoid Covid benefits scams

  1. Adopt best practices for internet use–don’t duplicate passwords, use a 2 step verification system,  only work with secure website update anti-virus software
  2. Do not provide sensitive information on the phone
  3. Do not click on links in an email 
  4. Verify all information from those who say they work for government offices
  5. Contact the government office directly

Keeping your information safe from hacking will protect you from many types of cyberfraud. Adopt best practices for cyber security. Update your anti-virus software, use one password per platform and change the passwords regularly. Use a 2-step verification system for added security. These practices can take only a few minutes or seconds but they can make all of the difference between having your data hacked and keeping it safe. 

Avoid cold-calls. Government offices in the 21st century will not cold call you. If you want to talk on the phone with them, at least ask for their number and call them back. Verify the phone number with the one listed on the government site. In fact, verify all of the contact information you are given. If you are sent an email by what seems to be a government office, be skeptical. Do not click on links directly in the email or download documents. 

If you need to verify your information to receive your funds, take the initiative and contact the government office to confirm that this is the case. If you need to update your information, do so only on a secure website, never on the phone, in an email, or a text. 

There is a chance that even if you follow these precautions you still may fall victim to a benefits scam. If this happens, report the crime and seek guidance from expert fund recovery services. 

Pengeretur professionals assist clients in fund recovery, particularly with chargebacks. We provide information about the chargeback process and tools that will help you analyze your situation and assess the best strategies for pursuing fund recovery.

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