Be aware of the following scams which have arisen as fraudsters take advantage of the crisis:
Apps and text messages
- New mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus but instead lock your phone and demand a ransom.
- Fraudsters are sending scam messages claiming you are being fined for leaving the house. Criminals are able to use spoofing technology to send texts and emails impersonating organisations that you know and trust. We would remind anyone who receives an unexpected text or email asking for personal or financial details not click on the links or attachments, and don’t respond to any messages that ask for your personal or financial details. The Government has only sent one text message to the public regarding new rules about staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Any others claiming to be from UK Government are false.
- Fake products online and people offering miracle protection, cures or vaccines for coronavirus.
- Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates
- Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing.
- Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
- Impersonating a police officer to attempt burglary.
- Impersonating people such as BBC reporters, Red Cross workers and health authorities - door-to-door knocking claiming to be carrying out mandatory testing for coronavirus as an excuse to enter a home and carry out robberies: - always ask for ID before letting someone into your home.
- Impersonating willing shoppers – door-to-door knocking offering help with shopping but then instead steal the money: - ideally link up with verified volunteer groups for food delivery or support. Contact your council if unsure.
- Home cleaning services to remove COVID-19.
- There has been a reported rise in the amount of “Sextortion” phishing emails recently. Sextortion scams are a type of phishing attack whereby people are coerced to pay a Bitcoin ransom because they have been threatened with sharing video of themselves visiting adult websites. These scams are made to appear all the more credible because they provide seemingly plausible technical details about how this was achieved, and the phish can sometimes also include the individual’s password. For more information click https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/sextortion
- There are a number of people sending emails with false test results plus information regarding coronavirus via a link. That link creates a virus on your computer: - if you are unsure, do not open links within an email, visit official websites instead.
- Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar.
- Reports of scam emails to parents suggesting that as schools are closing, all pupils are being given free meals, followed by a request to families to “register” their details, including their bank details, so parents can be supported. Our advice is that if you receive any emails like this, do not respond and delete it immediately. If in doubt, call your local authority on the phone number you know to be correct.
- Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimics the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area, but to access this information the victim needs to either click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.
COVID-19 scams and crimes news links:
- 16th: Unprecedented number of scams linked to virus: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-52296936
- 15th: UK Citizens urged to beware COVID-19 scammers: https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisoruk/2020/04/15/uk-citizens-urged-to-beware-covid-19-scammers/#557aa439378a
- 15th: Pandemic fraud warning as two arrested over false Covid-19 test claims: https://www.itv.com/news/2020-04-15/pandemic-fraud-warning-as-two-arrested-over-false-covid-19-test-claims/
- 9th: WARNING. 15+ coronavirus scams to watch out for and how to protect yourself: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/team-blog/2020/04/coronavirus-scams-protect-yourself/
- 4th: Fraudsters exploiting Covid-19 fears have scammed £1.6m: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/04/fraudsters-exploiting-covid-19-fears-have-scammed-16m
- 1st: Men posed as BBC staff to target woman, 83: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-52125109
- 31st: Beware online tests and cures, experts say: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/31/coronavirus-covid-19-fake-tests-cures
- 30th: Banks warn on wave of text message 'smishing' scams: https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-banks-warn-on-wave-of-text-message-smishing-scams-11965670
- 29th: Social disease - how fraudsters adapt old scams to exploit coronavirus https://www.theguardian.com/money/2020/mar/29/coronavirus-social-disease-fraudsters-adapt-old-scams
- 24th: Be aware of COVID-19 scams: https://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/news/beware-of-covid19-scams/
- 24th: Warning over home testing kits: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/news/ctsi-issues-warning-over-covid-19-home-testing-scams
- 16th: Cyber criminals ‘looking to exploit people’s fears’ over coronavirus: https://www.itv.com/news/2020-03-16/cyber-criminals-looking-to-exploit-peoples-fears-over-coronavirus/
- 16th: Coronavirus: UK intelligence agency issues public warning about criminals exploiting outbreak: https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-uk-intelligence-agency-issues-public-warning-about-criminals-exploiting-outbreak-11958113
Key protection advice
- Stop: Taking a moment to think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
- Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
To report crimes and scams please follow the following guidance:
- Call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report incidents of fraud online and offline at www.actionfraud.police.uk
- Forward suspicious emails to email@example.com
- Call 101 to report non-emergency incidents to your local police
- Call 999 if you’re reporting a crime that’s in progress or someone is in immediate danger
- Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 to report crime completely anonymously
Existing crimes will continue to occur whist COVID-19 new crimes are emerging. Issues such as burglary, domestic abuse and modern slavery are all still prevalent. Here you can find toolkits with useful resources.
See the advice from Friends Against Scams and visit their website for more information including an online scam training course: https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/