UPDATED 2:00 PM PT – Saturday, March 20, 2021
While Democrats have argued ongoing lockdowns and business closures are necessary to keep us safe, some tech experts have pointed out that doing everything from home presents its own risks. According to an Axios report Friday, a number of public communications officials and security experts explained how living online presents an opportunity for criminals.
One of the contributors to the report, Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission Rebecca Slaughter, said she has been struggling to keep up with a surge of new fraud claims as bad actors have set up various scams related to coronavirus testing, vaccines and even stimulus payments.
“But we here at the FTC would like to remind you that scammers follow the headlines too,” said Slaughter. “So here are a few short ways to spot a scammer trying to take your money or personal information. First: Know that nobody in the government will ask you to pay anything upfront to get your economic impact payment. There is no way to get your payment faster…that’s simply a scam.”
Electronic Privacy Information Center Policy Director Caitriona Fitzgerald said that while moving things online can curb the spread of COVID-19, moving away from in-person systems can also have severe consequences. Fitzgerald has argued some systems simply cannot adapt to an online format, such as the criminal justice system.
She pointed out how a Virginia woman decided not to testify against a man she had accused of sexual assault because she would have to do so through a live stream, which would be available to the public. Virtual court hearings present another issue, which was brought to light during a domestic abuse hearing in Michigan that was held in March.
St. Joseph County Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Davis stopped a hearing when she believed her witness was actively being intimidated by the man she was testifying against, her boyfriend Coby Harris.
“Your honor, I have reason to believe that the defendant is in the same apartment as the complaining witness right now and I am extremely scared for her safety,” St. Joseph County Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Davis stated during the virtual court hearing. “The fact that she is looking off to the side and he is moving around — I want some confirmation that she is safe before we continue.”
Police officers arrived at the witness’ house and arrested Harris, who was charged with obstruction of justice in addition to the numerous assault charges levied against him in the first place.
District Court Judge Jeffrey Middleton expressed his disbelief.
“This is an issue we didn’t have when we had live court,” Middleton said. “This is the first time to my knowledge — if he is in the same venue — that this has occurred.”
Despite these new threats, a few states representing the West Coast and New England are still hesitant to re-open fully. The states have condemned their citizens to live online at their own risk.