There are numerous scams targeting victims from emails to text messages, phone calls and online shopping right the way through to your front door. In this blog post, we highlight some of these scams actively targeting victims and what you should do if you are targeted.
It should come of no surprise that some scammers are seeking to an all new low to prey on the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Times are hard for many people for many reasons such as contracting Coronavirus, pre-existing health conditions, facing lockdown alone, and for financial reasons. Whatever the reasons, many workers in the UK are facing being furloughed or facing redundancy as many businesses are struggling to stay afloat during this crisis with many going into administration or ceasing trading.
Action Fraud has reported that Coronavirus scams have costed victims over £800k in one month.
Coronavirus-related scams to look out for
Text message scams
Many text message scams are doing the rounds claiming to be from the government. They appear to be legitimate and contain links urging you to click them. UK Finance reports that criminals are using a technique called ‘spoofing’, which can make a message appear in a chain of texts alongside previous genuine messages from that organisation.
Top tip: be sure to check the sender’s details before clicking any links.
Scammers are using many phishing emails to target victims with a range of scams. Some of these include fake requests for payment to access COVID-19 information, fraudulent articles and Coronavirus alert services alongside investment trading and advice. One phishing scam, however, which appears to be convincing are the ones claiming to be from the government about a tax refund. These emails look legitimate, are well written and contain the HM Revenue & Customs logo. They include a link and a PDF. You can view an example of one we have received.
Top tip: never click links or attachments in emails if you do not know who they are from. The best way to find out who sent the email despite the email containing a logo is to click on the sender’s email address. Further email best practices can be found here.
Online shopping scams
Action Fraud has received many reports from victims that have ordered essential supplies online such as face masks, hand sanitiser and other products which never arrived. Besides this, many people have reported buying products that claim to protect you from COVID-19, which isn’t medically proven.
Top tip: order products online from credible businesses. Look out for online reviews of sellers and their terms and conditions of sale, so you know where you stand on their refund policy.
Many people are reporting door-to-door scams where people visit vulnerable people such as the elderly, take their money to buy them food and other essentials and never return.
Other door-to-door scams include driveway cleaning to kill the virus which is unproven, and home testing which the Government and NHS have stated they are not doing so don’t fall for it.
Top tip: never give money or your bank cards to strangers. Where possible, use the help from someone you know well or use online shopping services from credible retailers. For the latest information on Coronavirus visit the UK Government and NHS websites.
Some of the finance scams found have included loan sharks preying on desperate families and loan fee fraud scams where victims pay an upfront fee also known as an ‘advanced payment’ when applying for a loan or credit which of course they’ll never get once they’ve paid the fee.
Other finance scams include targeting victims with advice around their investments and pensions advising them to move their money which is, of course, a scam.
Top tip: do not share any personal details without checking the company’s details with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Don’t pay upfront fees when applying for a loan or credit. The Financial Conduct Authority contains all the details of UK registered financial organisations which you should check before dealing with any company, and the Pensions Advisory Service website offers free guidance for your pension.
Tips to protect yourself from Coronavirus scams
It’s inevitable that at some point, we will all be targeted with a scam. To a scammer, it is easy pickings; they send blanket emails and text messages in the thousands to victims they have details of which are often stolen from companies in data breaches. You can check if your email has been leaked in a reported data breach at https://haveibeenpwned.com.
Here’s what you can to do to make sure you don’t become a victim to a scam.
- Question, question and question. Ask yourself why are you receiving this information, is it personalised to you, and what is the purpose of you receiving the information? In other words, what’s in it for them (the sender). Does the information they send to you benefit you or them?
- Do not click links in emails or text messages. If in doubt about the content of the email or message, visit the website directly rather than clicking links. Ask yourself, why are you being sent this information, and what are their intentions?
- Do not open attachments. As above, do not open any attachments you are not expecting.
- Check, check and check. Look at the sender’s email address. If it looks like it comes from HMRC and the sender’s email address is a yahoo or Gmail address, then it’s a scam. Check the email signature – what’s the name of the sender, are contact details visible and is it from someone you know?
- Look at the tone of voice and grammar. Does the email have poorly-written English? If the information is poorly written and doesn’t make much sense, then ignore it.
- What’s the rush? Does the email ask you to take urgent action or emphasise an opportunity not to be missed? Scammers play on a sense of urgency to create panic so that you take immediate action without thinking about it.
- Use credit or debit cards. If you are purchasing items, then you should where possible use debit or credit cards. You have more consumer rights and a higher chance of recovering your money.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Scammers are out to convince you so if you receive information, for example, about significantly increasing your pensions funds or investments by moving them, the chances are it is too good to be true.
Always question the motives of the people sending you this information. Does it benefit you or them? And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.
If you have been a victim of a scam and money has been stolen, contact your bank immediately. You can report scams directly to Action Fraud.
If you think your IT infrastructure, mobile device or laptop may be compromised, and you are a business, contact MMRIT or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.