How Google Helping People To Avoid COVID‑19 Online Scams
| Madhu Kumari, Thought Leader, Patna - 26 May 2020

During the past couple of weeks, our advanced, machine-learning classifiers have seen 18 million daily malware and phishing attempts related to COVID-19, in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related spam messages: Mark Risher, Senior Director, Account Security, Identity, and Abuse, Google

We’re surfacing content that’s accessible to a whole range of communities, and there’s constant vigilance to remove misinformation on platforms like YouTube—this includes videos or other information that could be harmful to people: Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s Chief Health Officer

By Madhu Kumari

Recently, there has been a significant rise in online scams related to COVID‑19. “During the past couple of weeks, our advanced, machine-learning classifiers have seen 18 million daily malware and phishing attempts related to COVID-19, in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related spam messages, wrote Mark Risher, Senior Director for Account Security, Identity, and Abuse, Google over a month ago.

Seeing this dangerous trend, the Google has started providing tips to help the users spot and avoid these scams, so that they can stay safer online.

 “We want to keep you safe whenever you’re online. That’s why everything we make is protected with powerful built-in security technologies that help detect and block threats before they ever reach you” mentioned Google on its website.

To protect you from these risks, we've built advanced security protections into Google products to automatically identify and stop threats before they ever reach you. Our machine learning models in Gmail already detect and block more than 99.9 percent of spam, phishing and malware. Our built-in security also protects you by alerting you before you enter fraudulent websites, scanning apps in Google Play before you download, and more. But we want to help you stay secure everywhere online, not just on our products, so we’re providing these simple tips, tools and resources,” wrote Mark Risher in his blog posted on Google.

Cybercriminals using coronavirus fear to threaten unsuspected and innocent individuals. Misinformation and online scams have been on the rise and spread extensively during this pandemic. Hackers take advantage of this situation by making internet threats to dupe people.

“In this historic moment, access to the right information at the right time will save lives. Period. This is why our Search teams design our ranking systems to promote the most relevant and reliable information available. We build these protections in advance so they’re ready when a crisis hits, and this approach serves as a strong defense against misinformation, says Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google’s Chief Health Officer, in an Interview with Megan Washam, Keyword contributor of Google.

Dr. Karen DeSalvo further said, “When COVID-19 began to escalate, we built features on top of those fundamental protections to help people find information from local health authorities. We initially launched an SOS alert with the World Health Organization to make resources about COVID-19 easily discoverable. This has evolved into an expanded Search experience, providing easy access to more authoritative information, alongside new data and visualizations.”

“We’re surfacing content that’s accessible to a whole range of communities, and there’s constant vigilance to remove misinformation on platforms like YouTube—this includes videos or other information that could be harmful to people,” Dr. DeSalvo said in her reply to the question asked by Megan Washam, Keyword contributor of Google. Her Interview is posted on the Google's official website. 

In view of the growing COVID-19 online scams, the Google Safety Centre has shared several tips to help you identify the frauds such as form of stealing your personal data, fake offers on products, impersonation of authorities, fake medical offers, and fake charity donations and stop them and stay safe online.

The general types of COVID19 scams are as follows:

Stealing your personal data

Scammers who ask for too much information to "fix" your insurance policies, loan or do false contact tracing, such as your username, bank account data or even the PIN code.

Fake offers of goods and services

Massive discounts from anonymous third parties on masks or access to the web entertainment providers.

Impersonation of authorities

Imitation of government organisations like Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) offering COVID‑19 information

Fraudulent medical offers

Offers of medical help such as cures, treatment, test kits, hand sanitizer or face masks that never come.

Fake requests for charitable donations

Donations should be closely reviewed and support to endorse COVID‐19 relief from non-profits organisation, civil society, hospitals or other organizations.

Google give tips to avoid and prevent COVID-19 scams

Know how scammers may reach you

Scammers and fraudsters are taking undue advantage of the increase of COVID‐19 communications by disguising their scams as genuine updates about the virus. In addition to emails, scammers may also use SMS, phone calls and fake websites to get to you. Although online scams are very common with emails, hackers may still seek to reach people via SMS, automated calls and malicious websites. Keep an eye out on both of those sites for updates.

Check trusted sources directly

Scammers also act as well-known sources of trust and authority. To get the most accurate information about COVID‐19, contact websites directly such as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), WHO.

Be cautious of requests for personal or financial information, pause and evaluate before sharing

When you get an unsolicited information letter, take some additional time to analyze the message. Scammers will also ask you to share more information with them than is required, such as login numbers, bank details and addresses. They also can seek payment via bank transfer or virtual currency.

Donate directly through non-profit organizations

Scammers and fraudsters take advantage of sympathy for collecting funds for humanitarian activities at COVID‐19, or impersonating non-profit organizations. To make your money more secure, you should donate directly from their website to a non-profit group or organisation rather than clicking a link sent to you.

Double check links and email addresses before clicking

Fake links also resemble existing pages by inserting additional words or letters. If it says something like "click here," hover over the link or press the text for a long time to search the URL for errors. Misspelled words or random letters and numbers can also suggest fraud in the URL or email address.

Search to see if it's been reported

If somebody has sent you a fraudulent message, it’s likely they’ve sent it to other people as well. Copy and paste the email address, phone number, or most suspicious portion of the message into a search engine to check if it’s been report by others.

If anyone has sent you a fake letter, it is possible that they have also sent it to others. Copy and paste the email address , telephone number, or most doubtful section of the post into a search engine to test if others have reported it.

Add an extra layer of security to your account

For extra security defense, apply two-factor authentication to your accounts — also known as 2-step verification. It adds another authentication measure by allowing two measures to obtain access to your account: for example, something you know (your password) and something you have physically on hand (such as a phone or a security key).

Apart from the advice that Google offers, we 'd like to say that if you get a fake message and you're convinced it's a cybercrime attempt, make sure you tell everyone about it and they'll be aware of it as well. Also, if you see something suspicious you can report it to https://cybercrime.gov.in/

Image -1 Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Chief Health Officer, Google

Image-2 Mark Risher, Senior Director for Account Security, Identity, and Abuse, Google

All Images CourtesyGoogle


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