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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 22 January

Public warned of COVID vaccine booking scams

Fraudsters continue to use the ongoing situation with the pandemic to steal money and information from the public. This week Cifas has received reports of fake emails and texts claiming to be from the NHS urging people to book an appointment for their COVID vaccination. These messages often contain hyperlinks to book a slot, with victims being asked to enter personal or financial information. Some people have even reported fake NHS staff visiting their home asking for payment to administer the vaccine.

According to ActionFraud, there have been 91 reports of vaccine scams leading to losses totalling over £531,000.

Cifas is reminding people that the NHS will never ask for information or payment, and anyone that receives a suspicious email claiming to be from the NHS should forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk. Anyone visited unexpectedly by someone claiming to be from the NHS or to administer the vaccine should call the police immediately.

Netflix customers targeted by phishing scams

Netflix customers are being warned of fake emails purporting to be from the streaming service asking them to update their payment details or risk having their account suspended. Netflix has advised customers that if they receive an email or text requesting their username, password, or payment method, then they must not respond or click on any links provided, and forward any suspicious emails to phishing@netflix.com.

M&S shoppers warned of Facebook fraud

Cifas has heard reports this week of fraudsters offering shopping vouchers for Marks & Spencer on Facebook. The fraud was initially detected via a fake post offering offered free items worth £40 on the ‘M&S Shop’ Facebook group which has more than 30,000 followers. Although the post has now been taken down, social media users continue to be targeted by fraudsters purporting to be high-street names offering free gifts to take part in surveys or competitions.

Cifas is warning people to be very cautious when approached to take part in any type of activity that involves parting with personal information as this can be used to commit identity theft. Also remember that if an offer look too good to be true then it probably is!

Investors lose thousands in new Bitcoin scam

Cifas understands that a new bitcoin investment scam email is currently in circulation with Action Fraud receiving over 400 reports of this scam in just two days. These emails are designed to link to legitimate-looking pages from the BBC or Mirror websites promoting bitcoin investment, and victims are reporting losses of up to £200,000 after following links to these websites, as well as through AOL, MSN, Yahoo and Facebook.

Cifas is reminding anyone that has seen an investment opportunity on social media or on the internet which offers high returns and is celebrity endorsed, then it is probably a scam. Most cryptocurrencies aren’t regulated by the FCA which means they are not protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, so it’s important that you do your research before making any investments.

If you think you’ve fallen for a scam then you mist contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, then report to Police Scotland by calling 101 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