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Coronavirus (COVID-19) fraud advice

It is important that during these times we remain vigilant about protecting ourselves and others from scams and misinformation connected to the coronavirus.

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?

Are you a Local Authority wanting to learn more about of COVID-19 Fraud Screening Service? Click here.

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. 

Thursday 06 August

Fraudsters are intent on ‘cashing in’ crash for cash claims during Covid-19
Scammers have used the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown to plan a series of fraudulent attacks and are now intent on ‘cashing in' at the expense of road users, according to experts at investigation services AXA. The data was well above the average of a 27 percent rise across other categories of insurance fraud in a major warning to road users. There are now fears fraudsters have used the lockdown to their advantage and could be set for a strong if attacks on innocent drivers.

Fake News
Fake news articles are flooding the internet and the press claiming remedies, cures and false advice around coronavirus. It’s important to only share articles from trustworthy sources, and if you are in doubt as to what you have read is true, then visit. www.gov.uk/coronavirus or www.who.int/ for updates and information.

 

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

 

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.

 

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