Corona Virus — not the only threat!

Ankit Agrawal
6 min readJun 23, 2020

So, we are all fighting the big war against Covid, trying to be safe, trying to stay healthy, using sanitizers more than water, keeping our groceries, parcels and anything suspicious in quarantine for 24 hrs or more.

But do you really think it’s only your health that is at risk? Really? Think again!

In last 2 months I have heard the below stories, not in just news but from people around me –

  1. A couple with corporate jobs got scammed over emails with someone pretending to be a family friend and having loss of access to his phone, claimed medical emergency and looted the couple with 1–2 Lakh rupees
  2. At least 10 people in my knowing have got the famous sim card / ATM card update call where the caller pretends to be from some bank and threatens to deactivate your sim or ATM cards if you don’t give the card numbers and following OTP
  3. A lady in India was notified by an e-commerce giant that her account was accessed by someone in Vietnam
  4. Saw a security cam footage of 3–4 men covered with masks armed with metal rods, roaming inside the compound of a residential complex, trying to break in
  5. Some men entered houses of many people claiming that they are sent by municipal authorities to sanitize the house, got in the house, sprayed gas to knock people unconscious, robbed everything they could find (this one was from news)

I can just keep on listing these, but the point I am trying to convey here is that we are not only fighting a virus here, we are also against war to protect ourselves from physical & digital/ online theft, fraud. I am not sure which of the platforms have the most updated statistics on the scams or thefts, but my little research from multiple websites tell me clearly that theft or fraud numbers are equally shocking and alarming as the Covid numbers.

And it’s very simple, the urge to give in to pressure( intentionally choosing the word) for committing a theft/ fraud or scam is at all time high now. Due to adversities that Covid brought upon us, people have suffered unemployment, salary loss and loss of the support system for their families. Darwin did tell us; everyone fights for survival. And I cannot empathize enough with people who are struggling to get just one meal per day for their families & children, but the means equipped by many to do so may not be the right ones.

It’s something Mr. Joker warned us all 12 years ago “Their morals, their code; it’s a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. You’ll see- I’ll show you. When the chips are down these, uh, civilized people? They’ll eat each other. See I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.” — Joker (The Dark Knight). Indeed, he was ahead of the curve.

So, I am guessing by now I have stressed enough on the fact that the probability of falling a victim to a theft/ fraud or scam is equal as Covid. While most of us are aware of the general precautions to be taken to prevent ourselves against physical or in person thefts / frauds and scams, I am listing down 10 safety measures to prevent yourself from online or digital thefts and scams.

Guess what, they are the same safety measures you are following since last couple of months to fight Covid.

  1. Stay home — Don’t go out in the crowd, stay safe at home. Keep your online presence and financial transactions restricted to people/ vendors/ websites you know. Now is not a very good time to shake hands with new websites, online vendors, digital wallets, etc. Believe it or not there is someone watching everything you do on the internet. Don’t click on any new websites or offers which are very tempting or too good to be true.
  2. Follow hygiene — Don’t ever save passwords or write them randomly on papers or use the same passwords to multiple sites or accounts. Do not keep your payment methods (banks, cards, etc.) saved on any of the payment wallets, e-commerce sites, social media, etc. I understand the need of making contact less payments and there are a lot of ways we can still do that. Choose a card/ bank account that you are going to make payments from for all your expenses and keep the balance in that account or card restricted to a certain amount. Keep recharging it if needed but never use the account /card with all your savings in it. Don’t keep banking apps on your phone if you don’t need them.
  3. Take extra care of kids and elderly — A lot of our parents and elders are still new to the digital age and are not tech savvy. And children again, are easy to get carried away with their curiosity. So, spend enough time with your parents and children and explain them, with patience, the potential threats they may fall victim to. Choose carefully if you want your children to have access to your digital payment medium.
  4. Sanitize — Use licensed reputed antiviruses if you feel the need to. Ensure you have not saved any detail after your transactions are done. Don’t blindly give permissions to apps and websites to access your data. Ensure you revoke the permissions after what you need is accomplished. Logout of your emails and other accounts every single time your job is done, Every Single Time.
  5. Wear masks — To block the virus from coming in, right? Well yes, wear a mask (like the imaginary ones) to block every sensitive information that comes out of your mouth or your online actions. Do not post or casually speak anything that is sensitive or confidential information about yourself or your financial health, or the medium you use to transact online. There is no need for anyone to know this.
  6. Watch out for symptoms — keep an active watch on your financial health. I know a lot of people who do not remember how much money they are carrying in their wallet or have in their bank account or digital wallets. These people are the easiest to scam. By the time they realize it’s too late. So, keep an active watch on any suspicious activity happening on your social presence or bank accounts, etc.
  7. Self-Isolate — Protect your loved ones from getting it too. So, imagine you have fallen a victim, and are in a panic — do not forward the link/ email / app / SMS / phone numbers that were the weapon of your fall. Keep it to yourself and only share it with the authorities. You may unintentionally be the cause for someone else getting it too. Similarly, if you see good offers, coupon codes, deals or something that are too good to be true, don’t share them if they are from an unknown source.
  8. Quarantine anything suspicious — Keep things under observation before acting on it. If you are being contacted or requested to make a transaction that you are not sure about, don’t act. Wait for some time, check everything before you go ahead with it. Trust me when you are on the paying side, you can take as much time as you want. Look for indicators like sense of urgency, emotional distress, threat, spelling mistakes, incorrect attachments, etc. these are some of the common indicators of online attack or scam.
  9. The 20 seconds rule — Like taking 20 seconds to wash off the germs from your hands, take 20 seconds to review one more time before clicking the “Pay Now” button.
  10. Call help immediately — If at all you have fallen victim, breathe. Call the authorities at the earliest to make their job easier. Do not try to be a hero yourself, you can be one by not being one!

Remember, just like the lack of beds for patients at hospitals — the cyber crime departments are already drowned with tons of cases. You may or may not get a bed.

If you find this article useful, I request you to please educate your friends, families and those around you to ensure their safety.

Please, Please Trust me when I tell you this, what I have tried to put in simple words are the things most difficult to practice. After I wrote this article, I was very excited to share it with someone for proof reading. In the excitement of doing that I forwarded it to someone else with the same initials. This is a true incident, not making this one up. I know, I am embarrassed, beyond your imagination. You are welcomed to embarrass me more in the comments!

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