Cifas weekly coronavirus scam update – fake vaccines, phishing job adverts and tax rebates
22 February 2021
Warning issued to Brits as criminals across Europe begin offering fake COVID vaccines
Phishing scams remain rife as criminals attempt to steal details in order to commit identity fraud
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.
Warning issued over fake COVID vaccine
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has issued a warning this week about fake COVID vaccines. OLAF has heard reports of fraudsters selling fake vaccines in the EU, and is extending its inquiry into fake COVID-19 protection products to tackle the illicit vaccine trade. Since opening its investigation last March, OLAF has helped identify over 1,000 suspicious operations and seize over 14 million items, including faulty face masks and fake test kits.
Remember that the COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge on the NHS, and that the NHS will never ask for:
- bank account or card details;
- banking passwords or login details;
- copies of personal documents such as a passport, driving licence, bills or payslips.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud then you must contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or Police Scotland on 101.
Jobseekers warned of fake COVID job adverts
Cifas has heard reports of fake COVID-19 related jobs being advertised on social media. These roles advertise a variety of roles from COVID testers to admin support, and in most cases ask for personal and financial details which are later used to commit identity theft.
COVID-19 fraud continues to be a serious problem, with Action Fraud recently reporting that it had been alerted to 4,540 COVID-19 related fraud and cybercrimes, resulting in total losses of £21.8m.
Jobseekers can research whether a company is legitimate by checking the Companies House website. Anyone who has been offered a job and thinks it might be scam should contact the organisation directly using officially listed contact details to confirm the offer is genuine. For more advice or to report an incident go to the Safer Jobs website.
Fraudsters target taxpayers with phishing scam
Taxpayers have reported a new SMS phishing scam specifically targeting anyone filing a tax return for the 2019/2020 financial year. This email informs the recipient that they are due a rebate, and asks them to click on a link which takes them through to a fake site that looks similar to the official HMRC website. Victims are then asked for personal details in order to claim their ‘rebate’.
Cifas is reminding taxpayers that if someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are due a tax refund or owe tax, or asks for bank or other personal details, it might be a scam. Suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC can be forwarded to email@example.com and texts to 60599.
Royal Mail issues ‘depot scam’ warning
Royal Mail has warned of a new ‘depot scam’ currently doing the rounds in the UK. This scam involves a fake email informing customers that they have missed a delivery and asks them to pay additional potage charges. The email also includes a link to a webpage where people are asked to upload their personal and financial details in order to rearrange delivery.
Cifas is reminding people never to click on links in emails, or provide personal or financial details as this makes it easy for fraudsters to commit identity theft. Anyone that believes they have been the victim of a scam must contact their bank immediately, and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or Police Scotland on 101.
Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence for Cifas, said: ‘As the government begins to outline how the nation will come out of lockdown and recover from the pandemic, it’s important we all remain vigilant to any final attempts by criminals to exploit the situation over the next few months.
‘When being asked to click on links and share your personal details, take your time to assess the situation and consider the impact of handing over your details. Cifas members reported a 195% increase in account takeover fraud in the retail sector in 2020, and it’s believed phishing attacks by criminals to harvest personal information was a key enabler of this fraud. Your personal details could also be used to facilitate identity fraud should they end up in the wrong hands.
‘Be wary if you’re contacted out of the blue requesting your details, and if you believe you have fallen for a scam, report this to Action Fraud or Police Scotland immediately.’
Notes to Editors:
Cifas has a webpage dedicated to giving advice on coronavirus fraud and the latest scams.
For more advice on preventing fraud visit the Take Five website.
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 2019, Cifas member organisations prevented over £1.5 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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National Fraud Database data reveals facility takeover fraud in the retail sector almost tripled in 2020. Cifas urges retailers to consider how they protect their customer accounts