COVID-19: Don’t fall prey to internet fraudsters, EFCC cautions

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has cautioned members of the public against falling prey to emerging online fraudulent tactics being explored by internet fraudsters in the wake the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A press statement by the commission’s acting Head, Media & Publicity, Mr. Tony Orilade, Monday in Abuja, said the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu, who disclosed the development, said the caution had become necessary in view of the increasing number of complaints received from Nigerians falling prey to the antics of fraudsters taking advantage of the pandemic.

“In the last couple of  days, home-bond internet users have complained of  receiving several e-mails, SMS, WhatsApp messages offering free services such as Do-It-Yourself Covid-19 tests; free subscriptions to Netflix, hulu, and DSTV; government intervention/grant of N30, 000; and other tricky offers.

“Some of the fraudulent schemes are coming in the form of links that offer free data or requests for the Bank Verification Number (BVN), and account details of victims, assuring that such victims will be credited with money, as part of the federal government’s palliatives to cushion the effects of the running stay-at-home order,” the statement said.

The commission’s boss said, “Many of the fraudulent online messages require recipients to click and fill out an online survey and forward same to 10 WhatsApp users. The messages are embedded with malwares and other malicious codes which when clicked, trigger a program that steals and compromises mails, banking logins passwords, credit-related information and other critical data contained on the recipient’s devices.

“Victims stand the risk of losing both confidential information and monies,   since unauthorised access may have been granted to cybercriminals. They are also in danger of being infected with a ransom-ware which will automatically lock their electronics device.”

Magu advised the general public to take the following steps in protecting their data from theft and compromises: “Do not open unsolicited e-mails and click only on those that are from known and trusted sources.

“Do not click on any links or attachment with e-mails from unknown source; take a closer look at URLs for spelling errors before clicking.

“If you need any information, go to the official website of the organisation; turn on personal Firewall on your devices; in case of on-line financial transactions, you must cross-verify with the recipient before making the payment.

“Install and update Anti-virus on your devices. This is key; do not divulge to anyone via telephone, e-mail, any personal information such as Passwords, PIN numbers, ATM Cards numbers etc.”

According to him, “There is no online testing for COVID-19; such online link requesting for personal information to test for the corona virus, or provide a Do-It-Yourself method, is part of these fraudulent new methods aimed at defrauding Nigerians of their hard-earned money. Please beware.”

The EFCC’s boss also cautioned against offers of bitcoin and any offer to advertise a business and get paid, “Be wary of suspicious recommendations from friends on Facebook and Whatsapp claiming to offer investment opportunities they have benefited from,” he said.

Magu also advised members of the public to report any such fraudulent activity to the EFCC via its verified handle – @OfficialEFCC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or call the hotline: +234 8093322644.

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