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Cifas weekly coronavirus scam update - callous fraudsters prey on bereaved families

7 May 2020
  • Criminals pose as debt collectors to target bereaved relatives
  • Fraudsters impersonating local authority finance directors to contact business owners about grants

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, is highlighting the latest coronavirus scams from the last 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:

Bereavement scams
Fraudsters are increasingly targeting people recently bereaved. These callous scammers are purporting to be debt collectors recovering debts incurred by the deceased, and pressurising their relatives to pay the debt. Fraudsters are also contacting relatives to inform them that money has been left to them by a deceased family member, and to provide bank account details in which to pay the money.

Cifas is advising people to never respond to calls, emails or letters that they receive unexpectedly, and to talk to friends and family if they are concerned.

Payroll phishing scam
Homeworkers continue to be targeted by fraudsters, and recently there has been a rise in phishing emails claiming to be from an employee’s payroll department claiming to need information for a new payroll directory. The emails have the subject header ‘COVID-19/MAY PAYROLL BENEFITS’ and are asking the recipient to provide personal information which could be used for identity fraud.

Cifas is reminding people that receive an email asking for personal or financial information to always confirm this with the sender, and never reply or use the contact details provided in these emails.

Financial help for businesses
Fraudsters purporting to be from banks have been emailing business owners proposing financial help and strategies to alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recipients are asked to open a PDF attachment and directed to a fake login page, where they are then asked to enter their bank details. This information is then used to defraud the victim.

In addition to this, criminals have been fraudulently using the identities of finance directors in local authorities emailing business owners about COVID-19 business grants. These emails usually ask for bank details, or include a link which the recipient can start the application process for a grant.

Cifas is warning business owners never to provide payment details or banking information, and not to click on links in emails as they may download malware. More details about the financial support available for businesses during coronavirus are available on the GOV.UK website here.

Advance Fee Fraud
Fraudsters are continuing to target those shopping online. This week we have seen warnings about scams aimed animal lovers looking to buy pets over the internet. Fraudsters are requesting an upfront payment for a pet which will be delivered when the lockdown on lifted. In many cases these animals do not exist. 

Holidaymakers are also being targeted through fake listings and adverts to trick victims into purchasing motor homes. The fraudsters ask for a deposit which will be held until the lockdown is over, and try to allay suspicion by claiming the money will be held in an account and not released until the buyer has seen the vehicle and agreed to the purchase. The deposit money is then stolen.

Amber Burridge, Head of Intelligence for Cifas, said: ‘Fraudsters continue to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to steal money and information from innocent members of the public, and we are hearing of new scams on an almost daily basis.

‘People need to be extremely vigilant of fraud at this time. Never be afraid to challenge a request if you cannot confirm that it is legitimate, and remember that only criminals will try to rush or panic you into a decision. Don’t let fraudsters take advantage of you during this difficult time.’

Anyone that believes they have been the victim of a scam must 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

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. Cifas also offers Protective Registration for individuals whose identities are at risk of being used fraudulently. We also run a scheme called Protecting the Vulnerable, offered free of charge to local authorities to protect those under the care of Court Deputies who are unable to access financial products and whose identities may be at risk.

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

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