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With everything on virtual lockdown, what is happening in the realm of cybersecurity and online crimes?

Fraudsters are taking full advantage of the world’s move to virtual everything during the pandemic. Jared Hoffman reminds us how to protect ourselves on line during this time heightened risk for cybercrime.

Transcript

Tim Maurer:
Hello. Tim Maurer back with another episode of Ask Buckingham, a new video podcast designed to bring clarity in the midst of confusion by connecting your great personal finance questions with straightforward answers from industry thought leaders.

Tim Maurer:
Today’s questions will be answered by Jared Hoffman, Buckingham’s Managing Director of Relationship Management, who also happens to be one of our internal cybersecurity gurus. Jared, is there anything about the coronavirus pandemic that makes this a particular breeding ground for cybercriminals?

Jared Hoffman:
Yeah, unfortunately, yes. A lot of the scams you think about the last few years, Tim, involved social engineering where they get you emotional about something, something that’s fearful, threatening, maybe get you excited about a package coming. All those emotions have already been built up, right? Where we have anxiety about what’s going on in the markets or we’re worried we’re going to catch coronavirus. We’re stressed out because we’re at home with our cats and our dogs and our families. So there’s already that emotion built in, now they’re able to leverage that and get us to do things that we normally would not do. But in our emotional state, we act before we think.

Tim Maurer:
So, heightened emotions actually lead to this kind of stuff. I kid you not, as I was thinking about asking you what the most common scams are that we’re seeing, just before our call I get this text message on my phone. Telecom advisory. Due to slower services in your area, you have been selected to receive a new iPhone 11, and then with a link that says collect yours here. Any chances that this might actually be one such scam, Jared?

Jared Hoffman:
I am guessing it is, unless you’re very lucky. But that’s a perfect example, right? Who doesn’t want to get a new phone, right? Just click on this link. Why would you be getting a new phone? It doesn’t make any sense. So, they want you to think without acting. That one they’re kind of using excitement, a lot of these are about fear and threats and things like that. That’s already been built into us with everything happening around this incident and the pandemic, so they know they are already halfway there to getting us to do something we normally would not do.

Tim Maurer:
Yeah, so what are some of the other common scams that you’re already starting to see?

Jared Hoffman:
Well, a few big ones are, one is people sending out information under the guise of the CDC and the World Health Organization. These are great resources for information, but keep in mind if you get a text from the CDC, a phone call and they’re asking you for information, that’s not going to happen. If you want to find out information, I would go to those sites that you’d know them to be. You can Google search the CDC or the World Health Organization, they’ve got a lot of great information. But people know that we’re going there, so they’re pretending to be them and asking you for personal information. The CDC, the World Health Organization are never going to do that.

Jared Hoffman:
Other scams include things like being the first person to sign up for the vaccine. We know right now there is not a vaccine for coronavirus and even when there is, I don’t think it’s going to be a signup sheet. So be wary of things like that that are kind of preying upon your wanting to take care of yourself and using that against you.

Jared Hoffman:
Other ones include things like knowing that you may be a small business owner and you need a loan, so calling under the guise of a loan officer. “I’m going to fill this application out for you. It’s very low interest, no credit check needed.” That alone should be suspicious and then they’re going to ask you for personal information, so they can actually steal your identity.

Tim Maurer:
Yeah, it amazes me. You start talking about preying on particular emotions. We talked on Ask Buckingham with Dr. Meir Statman and he was referring to the power of fear and hope in really all times, but especially these. It seems to me that you’re saying the types of things that you could expect would be those preying on your fear or preying on perhaps unrealistic hope.

Jared Hoffman:
They are and they’ll even prey upon your good nature, right? So there’s a lot of charities going on right now to help out people who are suffering from coronavirus and families who need help, healthcare workers. Be weary of any charities that reach out to you directly or that you’ve maybe never heard of. I would stick with your established ones or a great website is charitynavigator.org. That [inaudible 00:04:17] for authenticity, because they’re going to prey upon your good nature as well.

Tim Maurer:
Very helpful website indeed. So many people will be receiving a check from the recently passed $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. What sort of scams could one expect around that? What sort of fraud?

Jared Hoffman:
A lot, unfortunately. So again, these folks are typically after money and now they know there’s $2 trillion being put out there. If you’re eligible to receive a stimulus check, there is no action needed on your part. You should expect to receive a notice in the mail from the government with information about where and when it sent your check, there is no action needed on your part.

Jared Hoffman:
So if you get an email or a phone call directing you to a website saying that you have to enter in information to receive your stimulus check, that’s going to be fake. If you receive phone calls saying that they have your stimulus check, it’s ready, but you need to supply your social security number or you need to pay a processing fee to receive your check, those are going to be phony.

Jared Hoffman:
So when you see that information, there’s a lot of people that need that money right now, so again, it’s that emotional aspect they’re going to prey upon, just remember, you don’t have to do anything. If you think you should have received a stimulus check and you haven’t received it, contact the IRS and call them and reach out. But no one should be reaching out to you, there’s no action needed.

Tim Maurer:
Yeah, I want to make sure this one’s really clear, because if I understand it correctly, people are going to be receiving a direct deposit check if they have utilized that feature for receiving their tax return over the course of the last couple of years or sending money to the IRS. If they weren’t utilizing that feature in their taxes, then they should be receiving it to their address of record in a physical check form. So you’re saying if any other attempts are made to ask for their information, their social security number, their bank account, those are likely fraudulent requests?

Jared Hoffman:
Exactly. If you’re not sure, just hang up, delete the email and reach out on your own. It’s okay to be a little paranoid about this, but I agree, those are probably going to be fraudulent, because you don’t have to do anything to receive this money.

Tim Maurer:
Absolutely. Now, one of the reasons that we’re viewing each other in this format is because we’re temporarily working from home, and everybody is just about right now. So, is there anything in particular about these offices being closed temporarily that could add to fraudulent activity out there?

Jared Hoffman:
Absolutely, right? A lot of us, when we’re in the office, we have tech departments and systems teams to kind of shield us from some of the threats that are out there. The fraudsters, the bad guys, know that we’re not in those environments anymore. So it’s the same type of advice you would normally get, but I think just even more heightened.

Jared Hoffman:
So make sure you’re using good passwords, keep your devices updated, follow your company’s policies that they’ve given you around how to work from home, don’t deviate from those and just think before you do something. If you get an email from your CEO saying, “I need you to wire money out,” I would check first, don’t assume that that’s real. Fraudsters definitely know there’s millions more people working from home that were not a month ago and they’re going to try to leverage that.

Tim Maurer:
Jared, thank you so much. Now I do know that you used to be a sports writer in your former professional life, so I want to make sure that this isn’t fraudulent. Today I received some sort of messaging that I saw on Twitter about ESPN putting out a new series on Michael Jordan and the Bulls from that dynastic era of theirs. Do you have any reason to believe that this could be fraudulent?

Jared Hoffman:
That is real and I can’t wait to watch it, because there is noting on TV right now, right? So that’s a good one. As long as they didn’t ask you for your social security number to watch it, I think you’re going to be in good shape.

Tim Maurer:
All right, good news, Jared, thank you so much. Thank you for tuning into this episode of Ask Buckingham. If you have a question that you’d like to see us address, you can do so by navigating to the website, askbuckingham.com or by emailing your question to question@askbuckingham.com, or just click in the upper corner of your screen, it’ll take you directly to the website.

Tim Maurer:
Remember that there are no dumb questions, but unfortunately, there are plenty of poor answers out there. Our hope is in that giving you straight answers to your questions, it will bring a sense of calm and allow you to apply what you’ve learned in pursuit of good decision-making. So please follow us, and by all means, Ask Buckingham.

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