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Cifas weekly coronavirus scam update - criminals target councils, students & bereaved families.

29 May 2020
  • Fraudsters attempt fake FOI requests to make false business grant applications
  • Criminals purporting to be funeral directors target bereaved families

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is highlighting the latest coronavirus scams from the past week, and warning the public to stay vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using to extract money and information. 

This week Cifas has been made aware of the following scams:

FOI fraud
Cifas has been alerted by UK local authorities of suspected fraud attempts involving fake Freedom of Information (FOI) requests asking for business grant payment details. As a result, local authorities have introduced a policy not to respond to any FOI requests in relation to this issue until the scheme is over.

The perpetrators are suspected of looking to identify eligible businesses that haven’t yet applied for a business grant with a view to submitting their own fraudulent application.

Bereavement scams
Heartless fraudsters are targeting families organising funerals for loved ones by contacting them and purporting to be from their local authority's bereavement services team and asking them for credit card details to pay their funeral director. These criminals are then putting families under pressure by telling them that the funeral will be cancelled if they don't pay immediately. As a result, a number of councils put out urgent warnings this week on their social media channels warning about the threat.

Anyone receiving this type of call should hang up immediately and report the incident to Action Fraud.

TV Licensing coronavirus scam
There have been a number of TV Licensing scams circulating during the coronavirus lockdown, and this week we understand that fraudsters are circulating emails informing people that they are eligible for a ‘COVID19 Personalized Offer’ of six months free TV licence. The message also claims the recipient's direct debit for their TV Licence has been rejected, and includes a link that when clicked on leads to a spoofed website attempting to harvest personal and financial details.

Cifas is warning anyone that receives an unexpected email or text about their TV Licence can check their account and payment details online at www.tvl.co.uk.

HMRC Hotmail scams
Phishing emails purporting to be from the government continue to be circulated. This week we have heard of emails claiming to be from HMRC sent from the email address HMRC@hotmail.com. These emails are offering grants of between £2,500 and £7,500 to tax payers who are out of work or working less because of the pandemic. The recipient is told to click on a link to check their eligibility, and answer questions that are designed to steal personal information.

Cifas is advising taxpayers to be suspicious of texts, emails or calls purporting to be from the government offering financial help or tax refunds, and visit GOV.UK to check out how genuine schemes operate.

Fake Fresher Week scams
Students are being targeted through social media posts advertising Freshers welcome parties taking place in September, with young people being lured into buying tickets for events that don’t exist.

Cifas is reminding students to always confirm the legitimacy of events by contacting their Students Union before they hand over any hard-earned cash.

Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence for Cifas, said: ‘Each week we see fraudsters adopting new ways to steal money and information from innocent members of the public. Remember that criminals are preying on people’s fear and anxieties around the pandemic, so never be rushed or pressured into giving anyone your bank or personal details – even if the request appears to be legitimate.

‘Always be vigilant of fraudsters and never let your guard down – especially in the current climate.’

Anyone that believes they have been the victim of a scam should contact their bank or financial service provider immediately and report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Corinne Gladstone
Head of Communications, Cifas
T: +44 (0)20 3004 3654
E: corinne.gladstone@cifas.org.uk

Notes to editors

Cifas has a webpage dedicated to giving advice on coronavirus fraud and the latest scams here

For more advice on preventing fraud visit the Take Five website.

About Cifas

Cifas is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation that protects businesses and individuals through effective and secure data and intelligence sharing between the private, public and third sectors. In 2018, Cifas member organisations prevented over £1.4 billion of fraud losses.

Cifas data is included in the Office of National Statistics England and Wales Crime Statistics of police recorded crime and works alongside law enforcement agencies in tackling fraud.

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Posted by: Cifas Press Team
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Posted by: Cifas Press Team

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