Hackers Deploy New Tactics During COVID-19 Crisis

Neil A. Carousso
April 09, 2020 - 4:32 pm

    Sign up for WCBS 880's daily newsletter for the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

    NEW JERSEY (WCBS 880) — Scammers are out in full force in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

    "The most stimulating part of the stimulus is the fact that the hackers are out there in droves," Adam Levin, former director of consumer affairs in New Jersey, told WCBS 880's Neil A. Carousso.

    Levin, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm CyberScout, said scammers are deploying new tactics to take advantage of people relying on the stimulus checks that could be direct deposited as soon as Thursday.

    "While we have day jobs, we are their day job, that's never changed. The intensity, however, has increased dramatically as a result of this virus and the disaster is the unemployment, and frankly, the terror that people are going through on two levels: health and economics," he said.

    Another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Nearly 17 million Americans have filed jobless claims since the coronavirus pandemic forced the shutdown of businesses nationwide. 

    Levin warns people to never click on links that appear to come from government agencies. Scammers are looking to take advantage by pretending to be the U.S. Government and preying on one's financial stress by offering a way to receive the stimulus check faster and get more money. 

    "Ransomware, which is where they freeze your files, lock everything down and demand to be paid or else your files will be deleted or forever encrypted," Levin said of one tactic. Another one is by turning one's computer or smartphone into a "keystroke logger." "Your log on credentials are being transmitted to the hacker," Levin said.

    He said scammers, looking to install malware, are promoting phony links for COVID-19 tracking. If one were to download it, a hacker would be able to access files and bank accounts.

    "(Federal agencies) don't send links, they don't send attachments that you can open, they don't call you on the phone and they don't text," Levin emphasized. 

    He encouraged people who are concerned or have questions to go on government agencies' official .gov websites and initiate contact with their inquiry.

    Stay informed, stay connected — follow WCBS 880 on Facebook and TwitterDownload the RADIO.COM app + favorite WCBS 880 for breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.