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Calendar Fraud
Post on June 28th, 2022

Phishing Evolution Continues

The FBI reported that, in 2016, approximately 20,000 Americans were victims of phishing crimes.  That number has grown every year since, with nearly 324,000 victims of phishing attacks reported in 2021. It is more prevalent than any other cyber-crime and it is one of the top initial infection vectors for ransomware incidents.

“Phishing” refers generally to the practice of contacting a potential victim disguised as a trustworthy source to lure the victim into revealing sensitive data or clicking on a link that will allow access to the victim’s computer. These phishing attacks can come in many forms. Attacks by email (“phishing”), by text (“smishing”), and by phone call (“vishing”) are the most common examples.

Another less familiar form of phishing scam involves calendar invitations. In one version of the scam an attacker sends an invitation directly to a victim’s calendar that contains a link. For many calendar programs, an attacker can send an invitation to the victim’s calendar with no more information than the victim’s email address. Depending on the user settings, events may be added to the victim’s calendar automatically before the victim has accepted the invitation. If the victim opens the event and clicks on the link, the victim has been hooked. The link may redirect the victim to a webpage that will prompt the victim to provide log-in credentials or sensitive information. The link may automatically install malware on the victim’s computer to initiate a ransomware attack or to record keystrokes and collect data.

These fraudulent calendar events are often disguised as video conferences from popular video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. If you are asked to accept an invitation for a videoconference or other event that is unfamiliar or you find an event on your calendar that is unfamiliar, investigate further before clicking on links. Check with the host of the event to confirm that the event and calendar invitation is legitimate.

Another version of calendar fraud occurs when a victim is tricked into subscribing to a spam calendar, most often on an iPhone. This can occur when a victim clicks on pop-ups from untrustworthy websites. Once the victim subscribes, events and notifications containing malicious links are automatically added to the victim’s calendar. Again, one click on a fraudulent link hooks the victim.

If you suddenly notice that new events appear on a calendar that you did not schedule, check to confirm that you have not inadvertently subscribed to a spam calendar. On an iPhone, this can be done through the settings app or by tapping on the word “Calendars” on the bottom of the calendar screen.

Loss is not inevitable after being hooked by a calendar scam. There are steps a victim can take to avoid being exploited. Think critically about prompts that request log-in credentials or personal information and seek advice before proceeding. Use anti-virus software to scan computers frequently and act immediately if any malware or suspicious activity is detected. Back-up data regularly and securely by maintaining a current copy of data in a location that is isolated from your network but can be accessed quickly in the event of a ransomware attack.

As always, if you have any questions, please contact us. We are here to help.

Gretchen Mote, Esq
Director of Loss Prevention
Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Co.
Direct:  614-572-0620
Email: [email protected]
Monica Waller, Esq.
Senior Loss Prevention Counsel
Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Co.
Direct:  614-859-2978
Email: [email protected]