As nightmarish as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for the U.S. economy, the stock market has shown at least some positive signs of improvement. Whether its because tech and similar industries are booming or the fact that investors are optimistic about global efforts to fight the virus, the world of finance has a different outlook on how the rest of the year may play out.
How much has big tech grown in the past several months? A perfect example: Amazon’s stock footprint has increased by at least 60%! And in the next year or so, the company may even be buying the shuttered malls in your town and turning them into distribution centers.
But with finances booming amidst the rest of the world’s problems, opportunistic hackers are taking advantage of the situation to try and capture as much money as they can. They’re masquerading as financial brokers using convincing phishing sites, and if you happen to fall for one, you could end up paying for it — big time.
That investment broker’s website might be phishing you
According to a new bulletin posted by the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), online threat actors are now using information scraped from registered brokers to create phishing websites that can capture data. They ask for detailed personal information, and according to FINRA, the end goal is likely financial fraud.
In fact, these impostor websites are just the latest in a massive wave of phishing campaigns that have emerged in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What makes these websites so much worse than with previous broker phishing schemes is how accurate-looking they are. The samples collected by FINRA contain no obvious errors or misspelled names of the brokers being impersonated.
It just goes to show you how hackers are stepping up their game and putting far more effort into their fake websites. If you land on a page that looks just like the genuine article, who can even blame you for being fooled?
How do I avoid getting caught up in this broker fraud scheme?
If you invest or plan to in the near future, you’ll need to take extra care that you’re on your broker’s genuine website before providing any data whatsoever. This means carefully checking the domain names of any websites you visit, calling and verifying the websites with the numbers on the site and cross-referencing those numbers with other resources.
In case you were wondering, yes — some of these scammers are impersonating brokers over the phone. In addition, you’ll want to pay close attention to any and all emails coming from your broker. Pay keen attention to the sender field of any emails you receive, and always double-check about any attachments and email links that are sent your way. It never hurts to call and confirm.
These scammers are getting more aggressive each day. What sort of scheme will they cook up next? At the very least with phishing schemes, we’re getting better than ever at picking them out before they can do us harm.