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Fraudsters are provided with many opportunities to target unsuspecting victims in time of disasters, crises, and global infectious diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic that we are experiencing in 2020.
During these uncertain times fraudulent activities are known to thrive and scams are particularly successful given people are more vulnerable as a result of fear and anxieties over job security, financial situations, the availability of basic necessities and personal health etc. Fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to deceive, mislead or defraud you using various forms of scams and hoaxes.
A scam is a fraudulent or deceptive means of defrauding you of your money and essentially preys on people's desire to increase their wealth or their need for material success in life. Although scams exist fundamentally to cheat victims out of their money, scams can also be designed to first target personal and/or confidential information such as usernames and passwords or bank and credit card information with a view to thereafter accessing a victim’s account and defrauding him or her.
Hoaxes on the other hand are deliberately contrived messages intended to deceive victims into acting upon false information. Often the senders of hoaxes are merely playing a prank, exploiting a person’s gullibility for spreading false news or in terms of disinformation campaigns to spread propaganda or influence opinions. Hoaxes are often spread through social media platforms and promoted through either re-posts or comments without being verified or fact-checked. Hoax messages can also sometimes be used to gather personal information in order to defraud victims later.
Protect yourself and stay safe by following the guidelines below:
- Be alert to the fact that scams and hoaxes exist and are widespread. If you receive any communication from an unknown source or if you are directly approached, always consider the possibility that the communication or approach may be a scam or a hoax.
- Resist the urge to click on links or open attachments in emails that you weren’t expecting or from unknown sources, just because they have interesting or enticing subject lines.
- If you receive a message that appears to come from an official source, government authority, financial institution, medical professionals or organisations, verify the information before acting on or sharing it.
- If you receive a message or request from someone you know for example a relative or friend, but it seems unusual or out-of-character for them, contact the person directly to check that it was really sent by him or her.
- If you want to make a charitable donation, go to the charity website of your choice to submit your payment directly. If you unsure of the legitimacy of the organisation (or business), research it on the internet and search for others who may have had experiences or dealings with them.
- Always know who you are dealing with. Never give out your personal information, credit card details, OTP’s or online account details to anyone you do not know, who is not a trusted source or where it appears out-of-the ordinary.
- Delete scams and hoax messages that you come across. Do not share or forward the messages rather report it directly to the implicated source or platform on which they are circulating and warn family and friends alike.