"During the last week, we saw 18 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19," the company said in a blog post on Thursday. "This is in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages."
While Google said it blocks "more than 99.9% of spam, phishing, and malware," the company warned that hackers have been trying to take advantage of Gmail users through fear and financial incentives.
According to the company, phishing emails attempted to "exploit the heightened attention on COVID-19" by impersonating government organizations like the World Health Organization to "solicit fraudulent donations or distribute malware" and imitating government agencies in order to take advantage of small businesses awaiting relief from the stimulus bill or trying to abide by stay-at-home orders.
To protect its users, Google has put "proactive monitoring in place for COVID-19-related malware and phishing across our systems and workflows."
"As soon as we identify a threat, we add it to the Safe Browsing API, which protects users in Chrome, Gmail, and all other integrated products," the company said. "Safe Browsing helps protect over four billion devices every day by showing warnings to users when they attempt to navigate to dangerous sites or download dangerous files."
In addition, Google has partnered with the WHO on implementing DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance) to make it more difficult for scammers to impersonate the organization and prevent legitimate emails from the organization from being caught in spam filters.
In order for users to protect themselves from future scams, Google recommended users complete a Security Checkup, avoid downloading files that they don't recognize, use Gmail's built-in document preview, which can prevent malware from automatically downloading, and double-checking whether a link goes to the site it says it does. Users should also report any suspicious spam or malware emails.
According to a report on coronavirus scams released by the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday, there have been more than 18,000 consumer complaints related to the coronavirus since the beginning of the year, reporting losses of $13.4 million due to fraud, with a median loss of $557 per victim. The top complaint categories related to travel and vacation cancellations and refunds, online shopping fraud and government and business impostor scams.