Fraud & Scams Advice
It is important that during these times we remain vigilant about protecting ourselves and others from frauds, scams and misinformation.
Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or your personal information.
Remember to challenge – could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
If you think you have fallen for a scam contact your bank or financial service provider immediately and report to Action Fraud. The following advice will help you to identify potential scams or frauds and avoid becoming a victim.
Our Intelligence Team is constantly monitoring for new and emerging scams around the coronavirus. Here is the latest information on the types of fraud they are seeing:
Find a weekly roundup of intelligence in our weekly threat summary, updated every Friday.
Friday 23rd October
M&S £35 Fake Vouchers Scam Alert
Cifas has heard reports of fraudsters using Facebook to circulate ‘free’ M&S coupons to shoppers to celebrate Mark and Spencer’s upcoming anniversary. The page leads to a website which asks for personal details such as name, address, mobile phone number and bank details, in order to enter a ‘prize draw’. Cifas understands that this scam is an attempt to steal confidential data and advises shoppers to avoid clicking on links and avoid parting with personal or banking details.
TV License Scam Email
With TV licenses frequently being automatically renewed, fraudsters are taking advantage of this opportunity by sending fake emails, claiming there is an ‘issue’ with the recipients direct debit. Cifas understands that the emails include a link, directing people to a legitimate-looking website which steals personal and financial data. Cifas advises recipients must never click on links from unsolicited emails and verify the email address, and remember that legitimate emails from TV licensing will always come from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barrow Residents Targeted by Cold Calling Scam
Cifas understands that fraudsters are targeting residents in Barrow with phishing calls claiming to be police officers. The calls claim that resident’s bank accounts will be closed and therefore cash should be withdrawn and handed over to them as a safety precaution. Cifas advises that residents remain wary of unsolicited calls and to remember that the bank or police would never ask for bank account details or ask them to withdraw money. Anyone that has been a victim of fraud needs to tell their bank immediately and report the incident to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Fake Green Homes Grant Advert Scam
Cifas understands that fraudsters purporting to be from an ‘energy efficiency advisory board’ are using social media ads claiming to ‘help’ homeowners identify if they are eligible for free products or grants. Once parting with personal information, these fraudsters are calling victims to let them know they ‘aren’t eligible’, often recommending a ‘special discount’ or ‘low interest government loan’ which is actually an expensive long-term credit agreement. Cifas is advising homeowners to:
- Never give personal or financial information to services not consented to.
- Never feel pressured to respond quickly – fraudsters often make people feel like they have to respond quickly by implying a sense of urgency or giving an unrealistic deadline.
Fake Halifax SMS Scam Alert
Fraudsters are understood to be sending fake text alerts purporting to be from the Halifax informing the recipient that a new payee has been added to their account or that ‘suspicious activity’ has been noticed. The texts containing a link to a fake website which attempts to steal usernames and passwords. Cifas advises Halifax customers to:
- Never click on links in unsolicited text messages, and remember that your bank will never ask you to provide personal or financial information
- Cifas is reminding anyone receiving an unsolicited text message to forward it to the fraud team at email@example.com or to verify if a text is genuine, contact Halifax directly on 0345 720 3040.
Lancashire County Council Coronavirus Scam Alert
Fraudsters are understood to be taking advantage of new restrictions imposed in the northern region by targeting Lancashire residents with a raft of new scams. These include fraudsters purporting to be from Age UK Lancashire in order to gain access to people’s homes, as well as others claiming to ‘repair driveways’ or ‘disinfect’ the outside of houses. Cifas is advising homeowners to always check the credentials of people claiming to be from charities, service providers or the local council as legitimate organisations will always carry ID. Anyone that does receive an unexpected knock on the door must never hand over money or let strangers in, and to call 999 if they feel threatened or in danger. The public can also call the police non-emergency number 101 if they aren’t in immediate danger but want to report an incident.
Amazon Phishing Email Alert
Criminals are understood to be sending fake emails alerting Amazon customers that an ‘illegal transaction’ has been detected. These emails urge customers to ‘verify’ their account within two days or all transactions will be cancelled and customers will be locked out of their accounts. Cifas is advising Amazon customers to:
- Avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails.
- Check the spelling and grammar of the emails as errors are often indicative of a scam.
- Logon to their account from the Amazon website if they are alerted or need to query any activity.
Bradford Fake Vehicle Tax phishing Alert
Cifas understands that fraudsters are targeting Bradford residents with fake vehicle tax emails, purporting to be from the DVLA. These emails claim the recipient’s vehicle is no longer taxed and urges them to pay an invoice or face a fine. DVLA advises that they never send out emails asking drivers to confirm personal details motorists, and that recipients should delete these messages straight away. Anyone receiving this or any other suspicious email should forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoopla Fake Flat Listings Scam
Cifas has heard reports this week of tenants being targeted with fake property listings on Zoopla. These listings advertise luxury for below market value in prime locations such as Chelsea and Bayswater, Manchester and Birmingham. Cifas is reminding tenants to:
- Be suspicious of any ‘too good to be true’ offers or prices.
- Verify the estate agent dealing with the property by using the contact details on their website, not the listing.
- Cifas is reminding potential tenants who have seen a fake listing to report the property URL and send it to email@example.com
Impersonation emails and SMS texts
If you receive an email, text or WhatsApp message out of the blue purporting to be from the government, HMRC, World Health Organisation (WHO) or a charity about coronavirus, then take a moment to think before you before part with any money or information. Never click on any links or download attachments as fraudsters will try to get victims to download malware or enter their personal details into fake websites which can be used to steal your identity.
If you receive a call offering protective face masks, hand sanitiser, testing kits, medicine, etc. be aware that they may not always be legitmate. If you do receive a call, don’t be afraid to hang up and research the company first. We have also been notified about a large number of victims ordering goods over the phone or online, offering up their bank details, and items never arriving.
Anxiety surrounding the coronavirus may lead people to rush into decisions without thinking rationally. It is important if you are ever contacted and asked for personal and/or financial information to STOP, Take Five, and think critically about what you are doing.
With many holidays being affected as a result of COVID-19 there will inevitably be an increase in scams offering refunds or rebookings. If you receive a call or email from someone purporting to be from a travel company or airline offering anything holiday related be very cautious. The best thing to do is contact the party you booked your holiday with directly.
HMRC Job Retention scams
The Job Retention Scheme has launched and fraudsters are attempting to take advantage of this with a subsequent rise in business owners targeted by phishing emails purporting to be from the HMRC. The emails attempt to seem legitimate by spoofing email addresses and using official sounding subject lines. The emails ask for bank account details of recipient and can include spelling and grammar mistakes. Always make sure emails requesting financial information are legitimate and from a trusted sender before you take action.
Emails are on the increase claiming to be from reputable organisations such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or the World Health Organisation (WHO) and requesting Bitcoin payments. These emails are usually requesting money to fund a cure for coronavirus or a donation to coronavirus related charity. Never click on links or download attachments from emails you receive out of the blue as they can release malware onto your device or steal your bank details.
Advice for homeworkers
With many organisations moving to remote working, there has been an increase in emails with fraudsters impersonating CEOs or IT departments asking employees to move funds, send banking information or security information via email. Always make sure emails requesting financial or secure information are legitimate and from a trusted sender before you take action.
WiFi provider phishing calls
We have seen an increase in fraudsters impersonating WiFi providers and threatening that customers will be disconnected unless they pay a fee. With large numbers of people working from home at the moment, this is causing many to panic and feel pressured into making rash decisions. If you do receive a call like this then hang up immediately and call your WiFi provider back on a confirmed phone number.
It is important to ensure your security settings are up to date on all your devices. Never share your screen with anyone you cannot confirm is legitimate. If you receive an email from your IT department urging you to download any updates to your device it is always best to confirm over the phone using a phone number you already have and not the number included in the email, do not ‘reply’ to email.
There are no cures or vaccines for COVID-19 at this time. If anyone comes to your door offering these items then don’t let them in. If this happens to you or you know it is happening in your neighbourhood then it is important to alert the police. There has also been a rise in adverts on social media offering ‘cures’ for coronavirus. Ignore these as they are scams.
There has been an increase in cases of fake charities knocking on doors and asking residents to donate to coronavirus related causes. It is important that you never give your financial information to someone you cannot confirm is legitimate. Take time to do your research beforehand if you wish to donate to a charity, and always send money through a secure online portal – never transfer money into someone’s bank account.
Do your research into the websites you are ordering products from, and do not panic buy. We have seen an increasing number of fake sites claiming to sell protective face masks, gloves and hand sanitiser that never get delivered. Be cautious of clicking links from emails or adverts on social media as many of these sites are set up with the sole intention of gathering personal information and banking details.
- Do not panic buy.
- Do your research and look at reviews of the sites you are buying from.
- Be very cautious of ads found on social media.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For more advice on how to prevent fraud, visit the Take Five website: Takefive-stopfraud.org.uk