Cyber Security Today – Don’t fall for these COVID buyer excuses, online coupon fraud and a new Windows support scam

Don’t fall for these COVID buyer excuses, online coupon fraud and a new Windows support scam

Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Monday May 11th. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cybersecurity for

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Crooks are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis in all sorts of ways. I’ve talked about email scams, but the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warns there are also online classified ads scams. Jeff Thomson, a senior RCMP intelligence analyst with the centre told me how these cons work: You place an online ad to sell something — it could be furniture, an appliance, an electric saw, a camera. Anything valuable. The scammer replies and says they’re interested, can we talk by email? Then they make an offer that’s well above the asking price — say $1,000 for the $200 table you’re selling. Why? Well, says the scammer, because of COVID I can’t pick up the item. So I’ll send you an electronic cheque for $1,000, you cash it, then wire $800 to pay a friend of mine who’s a shipper and will pick it up. What happens is no one picks up the table, and you’re out $800, or whatever you’ve agreed to pay the shipper. This is a variation of an old scam where the con artist says they’re ill, or their speaking on behalf of their ill parent, who can’t come pick up the product.

The Better Business Bureau recently warned of a related type of scam involving rental properties: The scammer places an online ad for a house to rent. He can’t meet you because of COVID physical meeting restrictions, but you can drive by the property and look at it yourself. If you like it, wire the scammer the first and last month’s rent and at some point you’ll meet to sign a lease. Of course, there’s never a meeting and your money is gone.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre warns people to beware of online offers for products for sale — and above-price offers for products you are selling — that are too good to be true, particularly for name-brand items. For products being sold by others, check out the web site: How long has it been up? Do you know someone who has bought from that site? Are the buyer reviews trustworthy? Finally, if you want to buy from a web site use a method that offer fraud protection, like a credit card, rather than an electronic transfer of money.

Here’s another online way scammers are tricking stay-at-home buyers: They’re offering phony coupons, often on social media sites like Facebook. These are often for brands like Bath & Body Works, Costco, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s. The coupons offer something like $100 plus free merchandise, especially if you share a coupon link with your friends. What’s the catch? To get the coupon you have to enter personal information, which gets you infected with a computer virus. The Better Business Bureau recently warned consumers of coupon scams. Online coupons can easily be faked by stealing company logos. You should verify online coupons by going to the company website to see if the coupon is offered there. Or phone the company. Remember that most legitimate coupons have an expiry date. And legitimate businesses don’t ask for credit card numbers or bank accounts for coupons or giveaways.

Finally, phony Microsoft support scams are as old as Windows. Often they are made over the phone –someone calls and says they’re from Microsoft support and there’s a problem with your computer. But security reporter Brian Krebs says the latest version has a twist: You get an email supposedly from Microsoft Support which says they’ve detected instances of child pornography access from your IP address. For now, your Windows Licence is being suspended. If this was not you and you want to reinstate your license, call this number. What the crook then wants you do to is go to a Web site and help them take remote control over your computer. Then you have to give a credit card number so they can allegedly fix something that’s wrong. If you get this kind of threat, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or the FBI. As Brian says, never reply to any email that threatens you.

That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Links to details about these stories can be found in the text version of each podcast at That’s where you’ll also find my news stories aimed at businesses and cybersecurity professionals. Cyber Security Today can be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing on your smart speaker.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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