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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.

What’s new?

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:

Friday 19th February

Warning issued over fake COVID vaccine

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has issued a warning this week about fake COVID vaccines. OLAF has heard reports of fraudsters selling fake vaccines in the EU, and is extending its inquiry into fake COVID-19 protection products to tackle the illicit vaccine trade. Since opening its investigation last March, OLAF has helped identify over 1,000 suspicious operations and seize over 14 million items, including faulty face masks and fake test kits.

Remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge on the NHS, and that the NHS will never ask for:

Jobseekers warned of fake COVID job adverts

Cifas has heard reports of fake COVID-19 related jobs being advertised on social media. These roles advertise a variety of roles from COVID testers to admin support, and in most cases ask for personal and financial details which are later used to commit identity theft.

COVID-19 fraud continues to be a serious problem, with Action Fraud recently reporting that it had been alerted to 4,540 COVID-19 related fraud and cybercrimes, resulting in total losses of £21.8m.

Jobseekers can research whether a company is legitimate by checking the Companies House website. Anyone who has been offered a job and thinks it might be scam should contact the organisation directly using officially listed contact details to confirm the offer is genuine. For more advice or to report an incident go to the Safer Jobs website.

 

Fraudsters target taxpayers with phishing scam

Taxpayers have reported a new SMS phishing scam specifically targeting anyone filing a tax return for the 2019/2020 financial year. This email informs the recipient that they are due a rebate, and asks them to click on a link which takes them through to a fake site that looks similar to the official HMRC website. Victims are then asked for personal details in order to claim their ‘rebate’.

Cifas is reminding taxpayers that HMRC will never notify them about tax refunds, penalties or ask for personal or financial information through emails, texts or phone calls. Suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC can be forwarded to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599.

 

Royal Mail issues ‘depot scam’ warning

Royal Mail has warned of a new ‘depot scam’ currently doing the rounds in the UK. This scam involves a fake email informing customers that they have missed a delivery and asks them to pay additional potage charges. The email also includes a link to a webpage where people are asked to upload their personal and financial details in order to rearrange delivery.

Cifas is reminding people never to click on links in emails, or provide personal or financial details as this makes it easy for fraudsters to commit identity theft. Anyone that believes they have been the victim of a scam must contact their bank immediately, and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6400.

 

 

 

General Advice

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.
 

Phishing calls

 

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.

 

Panic decisions

 

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.

 

Holiday cancellations

 

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.

 

Additional advice

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.

 

Bitcoin payments

 

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

Impersonation emails

 

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.

 

Security settings

 

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.

 

Fake vaccines

 

Currently the UK government and NHS are in charge of distributing the Covid-19 vaccine and they shall contact those who are eligible to arrange the administration. The vaccine is not available through any other means, and you cannot pay for the vaccine through an alternative provider or receive the vaccine quicker. If anyone contacts you regarding the vaccine asking for payment then it is important to alert the police and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. There has also been a rise in adverts on social media claiming to offer ‘cures’ for coronavirus and you should ignore these as they are scams.

With international travel gradually resuming it is likely that testing for the virus will become of greater importance, resulting in a parallel production and distribution of unauthorised falsified testing kits. INTERPOL are also advising the general public to take special care when going online to search for medical equipment or medicines.

 

Fake charities

 

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.
 

Panic Buying

 

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.

 

Remember:

  • 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