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Beware the Coronavirus scammers

Scammers haven’t got the message. They are not at home and staying safe. In fact, they’re thriving, out to exploit the isolated and vulnerable. And it seems as though these fraudsters have upped the ante, creating unique and convincing ways to get cash, fast.

Action Fraud stated that over two million pounds has been lost to COVID-19-related scams since early February. And, with the City of London police acknowledging that reports of scams are up over 400%, this is an anxious time for those at home, feeling isolated and vulnerable.

 

Watch out for:

Text messages

However legitimate it may seem, be wary of any text message coming from an unknown sender. Especially those that include an attachment or a link. Current text message scams include those claiming to be from The World Health Organisation, asking for donations. There’s also a rise in scammers pretending to be from charitable organisations, looking for funds to be sent to NHS workers as a goodwill gesture. One of our clients told us about a very believable text he received from HMRC, asking to confirm his child’s free school meal account details. His child is not even entitled to this service.

 

 

Emails

Scammers are feeding on the anxiety of the nation. One of the largest email scams doing the rounds is a link to an advice booklet, apparently full of information on how to protect yourself from coronavirus. When users download the pdf or press on any of the links, they are led to phishing sites. Accessing these sites leaves users exposed to malicious viruses, ransomware and spyware.

 

Home visits

Scammers have seen lockdown as an opportune moment to prey on the most vulnerable. The elderly, those self-isolating, and those living alone. Looking to especially exploit those with no family support, criminals have targeted specific houses and are knocking on doors.

Kent police have warned residents about scammers pretending to be NHS workers, asking to take the temperature of residents to see if they have coronavirus. Once they have been permitted entry to the property, criminals are then stealing money or valuable property. Similarly, police in Cheshire have seen a rise in scammers pretending to be from the Red Cross, offering to test elderly relatives for coronavirus for a fee.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received over 20 reports of criminals visiting residents to offer a COVID-19 related service, such as cheap personal protective equipment. The items, which then fail to appear, are costing victims hundreds of pounds.

 

Phone calls

Watch out for callers claiming to be bank managers, police officers or HMRC representatives. Scammers pretending to be authority figures, who have gone on to ask for account details, are targeting the elderly. Action Fraud have also seen an increase in scams involving subscriptions. They call, urgently inform the victim that their account has been hacked, and then request sensitive account information.

Some scammers are highly articulate, and sound ultra-professional. Don’t be fooled. If anyone asks you for your account details over the phone, be cautious.

 

Our advice

  • If it’s a call, text or email that you weren’t expecting, be wary.
  • Watch out for anything that includes a link to press.
  • Urgent language is usually an indicator of a scam. Press this now! Reply immediately! No, thank you very much.
  • Do not transfer money to someone unless they are known to you, and trusted.
  • Poor grammar and spelling, or broken English, often feature in phishing emails.
  • Make sure that your devices are up to date with the latest antivirus software.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Want to report a scammer? Notify Action Fraud.
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