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.
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.
Bereavement vishing scams:
Fraudsters are attempting to con money out of families organising funerals for loved ones. Callers are contacting families claiming to be from the local authority's bereavement services team. They then ask the families to provide card details over the phone in order to supposedly pay the funeral director. They apply pressure to the suffering families by telling them that the funeral will be cancelled if they don't pay. The council put out an urgent warning on its social media channels, warning about the threat. Individuals receiving such calls are encouraged to report incidents to Action Fraud.
TV Licensing coronavirus scam:
Action Fraud has issued a new warning over an email wrongly telling people that they are eligible for a "COVID19 Personalized Offer" of six months free TV licence, the email also claims the recipient's direct debit has failed. The message includes a link that when clicked leads recipients to a spoofed website attempting to harvest personal and financial details. If you are unsure about an email you’ve received, you can sign in to your licence online at tvl.co.uk to check your licence and payment plan details.
Google launches website to help people avoid online scams (including COVID scams):
The website, Scamspotter.org, tries to show people how to identify things such as bogus stimulus checks, fake vaccine offers, or other false medical information. The site also highlights certain patterns that are typical of hoaxes, like a romance scammer asking you to wire them money or buy them a gift card. Google launched the tool in partnership with the Cybercrime Support Network, a non-profit focused on helping victims of online fraud. The website is especially geared at educating seniors, who disproportionately lose more money than other demographics because of scams, Google said. The company urges young people to share the information from the website with the elderly people in their lives.
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.
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