The pandemic of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted the delivery of legal services in Nigeria. For cyber-criminals and fraudsters, these shifts have created an opportunity as they increasingly take advantage of the spread of the virus to engage in criminal activities.
Since the emergence of COVID-19, global reports have identified over 31,000 scams relating to coronavirus and resulting in over $30 million in claimed losses. Fraudsters are also preying on the government’s announcement of measures to support people and businesses affected by the coronavirus. Scammers may, for example, text, email, or call taxpayers, claiming to be offering financial assistance or tax refunds, or demanding payment of fictitious tax.
Individuals, businesses, the government, and law enforcement all play an important role in helping to protect against COVID-19 scams in Nigeria.
The Following are the Current Coronavirus Scams Raising Legal Concerns in Nigeria:
1. Cybersecurity Threats for Businesses
Scammers pose as real and well-known organizations such as banks, travel agencies, insurance providers, and telecommunications companies, and use various excuses around COVID-19 to:
- Ask for individuals’ personal and financial information
- Trick them into opening malicious links or attachments
- Gain remote access to their computer
- Demand payment for a spurious service or something they did not purchase.
- Divert individuals’ regular account payments to different bank accounts
2. COVID-19 Related Consumer Scams
- Scams involving online purchases of protective face masks, hand sanitizer, and other products that are never delivered
- sales of false virus testing kits or fake medications
- People who are vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home are targeted by leaving cards through their doors posing as representatives of organizations such as the Red Cross and offering services in exchange for payment.
- Coronavirus-themed phishing emails that attempt to trick recipients into opening malicious attachments on emails that can give fraudsters access to sensitive personal information such as passwords, email logins, and banking information.
- Fraudsters are sending investment and trading advice to readers in an attempt to persuade them to profit from the coronavirus’s economic impact.
- Scammers target people on benefits by offering to ‘assist’ them in applying for interest-free government loans. Once the scammers have the victim’s personal information, they use it to apply for an advance loan, which the scammers take, causing the victim’s normal benefit payments to cease and leaving them with large loans to repay.
3. Financial Cyber Threats
- Companies making fraudulent stimulus funding applications
- Former employees and company directors applying for loans
- Fraudsters using social media to target individuals with poor credit history to obtain their bank details to use as mule accounts for stimulus funding applications
4. Impersonation of Government Services
- Fraudsters applying for government stimulus funding in the names of legitimate businesses – the legitimate businesses only finding out when they try to apply for stimulus funding.
- Scammers pose as government agencies and send consumers information about COVID-19 via text messages and emails, phishing for consumers’ personal information. These have malicious links and attachments that are designed to steal consumers’ personal and financial information.
- Scammers are also posing as government agencies and other entities, offering to assist individuals with financial assistance applications or payments for staying at home.
5. Online Shopping Scams
- Scammers have set up fictitious online stores claiming to sell products that don’t exist, such as COVID-19 cures or vaccinations, and face masks..
6. COVID-19 Vaccination Scams
Several warnings have been issued about a new phishing text message scam in which people are told they are ‘eligible’ for the COVID-19 vaccination. In addition, these are some other examples of Scams related to COVID 19 Vaccination:
- Text messages or emails offering to send vaccines in exchange for payment for vaccines or early access to vaccines
- A text, email or phone call offering to pay money as a return on investment in the vaccine
- Fake vaccine-related surveys with prizes or early access are on the rise.
- A text or email asking people to click on a link or to provide information such as their name, credit card or bank account information
Emerging & Anticipated Issues: The Growing Coronavirus Scams
- Dating and romance fraud is now becoming a priority, and a new commission should go after the perpetrators.
- Impersonation scams, in which fraudsters impersonate the police, a government department, a bank, or another trusted organization, have been on the rise and are expected to continue.
- Individuals and businesses continue to receive an increasing number of suspicious emails.
Precautions to Keep Yourself Safe From COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Scams:
- Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or texts from unknown sources.
- Never give out personal information, banking information, or passwords in response to an email, text message, or phone call without first verifying that the caller is who they claim to be.
- Do not rush into purchasing anything; research any goods you may wish to buy and keep an eye out for emails or messages from government agencies, as well as requests for money made over the internet.
- Any numbers you suspect should be blocked.
- When logging into an account, always go to the website directly by typing in the address – do not click on links.
- Examine messages and emails for spelling errors.
- Consider using an antivirus program to protect against malware, which can be installed on a computer without the user’s knowledge via a link or download.
- Never give money, bank account information, or credit cards to someone you don’t know who offers to assist you. Most offers of aid should be free of charge.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
Scams are evolving, and many people are falling prey to them. It’s actually distressing, and difficult to believe or imagine that someone would profit from the current pandemic.
These are the things you should do when you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam:
- If you’ve already responded to a scam, stop communicating with the scammer right away.
- Any recurring payments should be cancelled by calling your bank directly.
- If you’ve been targeted, change your passwords and install anti-virus software.
- Report it: Make sure you report any scams you’ve been the victim of. You might not always be able to get your money back, but you might be able to prevent it from happening to you or someone else in the future.
Recovering Your Money after Being Scammed
You might be able to get your money back, but this is highly dependent on the type of scam, and whether or not you receive a refund is determined by what happened. You may need to speak with a lawyer to determine how likely it is that you will be able to recover your funds, which may include contacting your bank for assistance. A lawyer will also assist you in properly reporting your case to the appropriate authority and possibly taking the most appropriate legal actions to recover your funds.
We have skilled and experienced cyber lawyers at Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) who can provide legal support and advice in cases involving COVID-19 money recovery, cybercrime and cyber security. Our Cyber lawyers handle cybercrime cases that involve individuals, organizations, or the government, as well as cases involving e-commerce, e-contracts and digital signatures, intellectual property rights, cybersecurity, and other topics. They collaborate with stakeholders to protect against today’s COVID-19 threats and to develop more secure and resilient infrastructure for the future.
Please do not hesitate to contact Our Lawyers if you have any questions about COVID-19 frauds or cyber crimes in Nigeria.
Lead Digital Strategist, OAL.