Android, iOS Scams See Massive Surge Amid COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Avoid Hackers, Fraudsters Online

Android, iOS Scams See Massive Surge Amid COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Avoid Hackers, Fraudsters Online
With online scams that target Android and iOS devices surging 728 percent, you need to know how to protect yourself against these fraudsters. Photo : Clint Patterson/Unsplash

Online scams, especially those that target mobile devices, have surged as people emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from financial crime monitoring platform Freedzai said.

A separate CNBC report stated there is a 25 percent increase in online fraud attempts in the entire U.S., citing a TransUnion report.

Android Security: Phone Banking Fraud Up 728%

Phone banking fraud, the Freedza report pointed out, soared 728 percent, with overall banking fraud increasing 159 percent. A ZDNet article attributed these online crimes to the increase in transaction volume--which it pegged at 410 percent--as people step out of a lockdown. Likewise, people have been increasingly reliant on digital services, such as buying stuff online, which has placed them at a high risk of online and phone fraud.

The Freedzai report pinpointed banking as the main platform for cybercriminals, especially since financial transactions through banks have shifted a major chunk of its operations to digital. And this has opened the floodgates for spurious activities of fraudsters.

The report further identified California as the U.S. state were most of these cyberattacks take place, a whopping 90 percent of all reported fraud incidents, followed by Florida, Washington, Arkansas and New York.

Read Also: Cybersecurity: The Top 3 Biggest Data Threats E-Commerce Businesses Face

Android Devices More Prone to Online Fraud than iOS Devices

Quite interestingly, the report said Android devices are 1.9 times more prone to fraud than iOS devices, despite only having half of the transactions made on the Apple platform. It suggested the Cupertino-based company's stricter control of apps on its App Store made it difficult for cybercriminals to use the platform for their illegal activiites.

As such, how could users protect themselves against online fraudsters?

One prevalent channel for these attackers to commit such crimes as identity theft in accessing your financial information is through malware apps. These so-called copycat app--or those we see on Google Play or the App Store that seem to be genuine yet wreaks havoc on your device once downloaded--deliver malware to your system. How would you know if these are useful or harmful apps?

How to Avoid Downloading Malware

Norton Utilities provided a guide on how to know if these apps are genuine or a vehicle for malware. It stressed that users first need to do research on the apps they are considering to download. The developers of the app should have legitimate websites that present the features of the app, and other information on the other apps they offer. Otherwise, that scammer or fraudster alert is raised.

Likewise read reviews on the app. If they seem short or nondescript, just ignore the app. Chances are, Norton said, the app is a scam. You may also find negative reviews from users who claim that they have been deceived by the app. Also, take a look at the images of the app on display. If they are unprofessional looking, with mismatched fonts and misspelled copy, with non-symmetrical placing of images and logos, then you would know that you are being duped into downloading a malware app.

Norton also reminded users to check out if there is a clear and professionally worded explanation on the features of the app. Moreover, if the app seems to be that immensely popular app, you should check if its true developer matches with the app, and has hundreds or even thousands of user reviews, so that you won't download a malicious clone.

Be Wary of Phishing: Clicking Links, Responding to Text Messages, Voice Calls

Also, warnings have been raised on social media spam sending phishing links. A message or post may be so convincing that you are enticed to click on the accompanying link. Norton said never click a link sent by a total stranger on social media. Likewise, if you see that a friend has sent you a link, don't click it right away because your friend's profile might have been compromised to become part of a malicious chain of phishing. Clicking this link would have malware infiltrate your system.

The same goes for SMS phishing. Don't click on links or respond to such spurious offers as winning cash prizes or free ringtones on your text messages, as it would also lead to malware being downloaded. You should get such content from legitimate channels such as the Google Play, App Store, or the carrier's official platforms.

Users should also be wary of people pretending to be connected to your bank, asking for security details, one-time passwords, or PINs and saying your account or card has been compromised and a replacement will arrive soon. The scammer would get away with details and worse, take your money an instant. Never accommodate such calls, but try to place a call to your bank to be sure.

Also, if you receive a call then the caller hangs up, just ignore it. You may be a target of a one-ring scam luring you to calling the number back. These numbers could be high-toll lines that will charge you a premium rate.

Related Article: Understanding Cybersecurity Attacks and Regulations

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