Frauds and safety in times of emergency

The emergency status quo caused by the coronavirus increases the risk of property crimes and cyber attacks.

In times of crisis, emergency status quo and social isolation people are inclined to act recklessly, hastily or to make decisions under the influence of strong emotions. The public panic regarding COVID-19 is a favourable environment for committing crimes. When people feel threatened about their health and the health of their loved ones, their defence mechanisms weaken.

What to look out for?

Phone scammers with a new program

These are property crimes. Usually the scheme with these phone scams start with asking for money over the phone. They ways of receiving it are different. Using the current situation, the citizens’ emotional state and the unawareness of many people (mostly the elderly), new plots for phone scams regarding the coronavirus are plausible to appear.

One of the possible scenarios of phone scams is to receive a call from a person who introduces themselves as a doctor. The “doctor” says that a person dear to you is infected with coronavirus and that you have to pay as soon as possible a sum for their treatment. The scammer would probably say that the person is under quarantine and has no way of receiving the money personally and that is why someone on their behalf will come to your home to get it.

Another possible scenario is to receive a phone call from a person who introduces themselves as a commercial representative for medical supplies and offers you medicines and/or vaccines, preventatives and etc. against the coronavirus. However, you have to pay the sums before receiving the products.

We emphasize that as of now there are no officially proven medicaments, vaccines, tablets, potions, lotions or other products with or without a prescription which can cure COVID-19 – neither online, nor in pharmacies and stores.

We advise you to be cautious towards any phone call or message with which strangers urge you to take immediate actions by giving money on different occasions. At present the most up to date are the offers regarding the coronavirus COVID-19. Even if what you hear sounds logical it is best that you contact immediately your loved ones. If you cannot manage to do so, contact their relatives and friends to make sure the information you received is credible. Do not give into hasty and emotional decisions which could cost you a large sum of money, as well as your physical and psychological health.

The elderly are the most vulnerable to phone scams. They most probably will not be able to get acquainted with the current advice on the Internet. The responsibility is on you – the children and grandchildren. It is a good idea to call them daily in a specifically set time.

On the event of such a scam or an attempt for it you should signal immediately 112. The faster you do it, the bigger the odds of catching the culprits.

Empty offices and shopping centres are potential targets

In view of the crisis many company and shopping centre managers have taken into account the government’s recommendations for implementing remote form of work. For an undefined period of time many offices leave unsupervised a huge amount of documents with important information, assets and in some cases – money.

A precaution is to deposit the money in a bank account and to not keep it in offices when it is possible. Furthermore, you could install video surveillance and/or security alarm equipment in the office. This will give you additional calmness that your company assets are well protected. Securing your property against different risks is probably more relevant than ever.

Cyber security and personal data protection

The implemented remote form of work demands holding numerous online conferences between employees and clients as well as synchronizing/ sharing files and other solutions for remote work. That is why the information should be well protected and adequate measures should be taken regarding the protection of its exchange and storage.

Commercial company managers could provide for implementing programs which hinder potential cyber attacks. One of the problems which could occur regards sharing files between colleagues and saving them on different computers, tablets, laptops and other devices. It is possible that these devices do not have antivirus programs or if they do have such programs installed – they could have expired. This could lead to infecting the files and when they are subsequently copied on the server, this could lead to infecting all other files stored on the server.

It is a good idea to implement a centralized storage system for corporate data. This will allow a flexible work process since all employees will have access to the files. The files, on the other hand, will be protected since this system will be controlled by the company’s IT specialist. The devices outside the corporate system are vulnerable to different cyber attacks. The centralized solution leads to safe file sharing, easy access at any given time for all company employees, prevention of data loss and data theft. This can happen with localized storage of files. Companies without IT specialists should turn to specialized and licensed companies which will cooperate for creating a safe work environment (servers, centralized data bases, encrypted connections and etc.)

In order to control the use of personal devices for work purposes, it is necessary to implement a single corporate security policy and to adopt the suitable resolutions for protection. We remind you that you should consider the protection of personal data, as well as business data. The cyber security topic is directly linked with the obligations of legal entities under the Personal Data Protection Act and the provisions of the GDPR. In the conditions of remote work companies should guarantee the security of storage and exchange of personal data, including writing additional instructions and special protocols for work in emergency situations.

Author: Elena Georgieva, Attorney-at-law