All content on this page is correct as of April 6, 2020
Top tips for protecting your organisation from opportunistic scams
For all of us, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been a time of dramatic, unprecedented change to the way we live and work. Sadly, the more things change, the more some things stay the same, and fraudsters have already begun to use the pandemic as an opportunity for new scams.
The threat posed by fraud to charities is not new, and reports of fraud and cyber-attacks on charities were on the increase prior to the pandemic. According to a recent government survey, 26% of charities reported a cyber-security breach or attack in 2019-20, up from 22% in 2018-19. The increase in reports could point to a higher number of incidents or, more positively, to better reporting as charities become more vigilant of scams. Either way, these figures come from a world before COVID-19, and we can see that the risk to charities has increased in the current unusual circumstances.
Fraud and cyber-crime often rely on social engineering, a form of psychological manipulation designed to mislead your people into performing actions or divulging information which allows fraudsters to gather data or access the your computer system. This can take the form of (for example) bogus calls, emails or texts from people claiming to be your bank, your boss, a business partner or some other well-known company, inviting you to pay a bogus invoice, click on a malicious link, or hand over sensitive information. Social engineering communications often seek to create a sense of urgency – for example by claiming that your bank account has been compromised or frozen – to provoke the recipient into acting without considering the authenticity of the message.
Coronavirus scams to watch out for
Because social engineering exploits human error, people are naturally more vulnerable to it at times of stress, uncertainty and anxiety, when they are more likely to panic in response to an unsolicited, and often unwelcome, email or text. With so many of us working from home or adjusting to other changes in our working lives, we may not be well-placed to spot unusual communications or requests, and may be less likely to “sense-check” suspicious messages with others if we are not sharing an office with our colleagues.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, scams employed by fraudsters have included:
Top tips for coronavirus fraud prevention
In these turbulent times, we are all more vulnerable to fraud, which even ordinarily can often be sophisticated and difficult to spot. This means it is more vital than ever for organisations to take steps to protect themselves. In the case of charities, the recent increase in reports shows a promising increase in vigilance against fraud, and vigilance will continue to be important as the pandemic develops. You can protect your charity against fraud by keeping in mind the following tips:
This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.
All content on this page is correct as of April 6, 2020.