Coronavirus scams: what to watch out for
As many of us rally together at this difficult time, unfortunately that’s not the case for everyone. Fraudsters are exploiting the uncertainty with a wide range of coronavirus scams. So it’s essential to be in the know to make sure you don’t fall victim to them.
Fraudsters are hitting people’s inboxes with emails claiming the recipient is entitled to a tax refund due to coronavirus, but banks are warning this is a con. HMRC will never contact you by email to discuss tax refunds, so don’t click or respond. You should report emails like this to phishing@HMRC.gov.uk
Another coronavirus scam that’s doing the rounds are official-looking text messages claiming to be from the government. Starting with the words, ‘GOV.UK ALERT CORONAVIRUS’, they claim the recipient must pay a £250 fine for being outside of their home more than once in a day. It goes on to threaten an even bigger fine of £5,000 if they persist. The text ends asking people to phone a number if they have any enquiries or to appeal.
It’s essential to ignore the text and do not call the number listed.
Action Fraud has received multiple reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails trying to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive financial or personal information.
Some emails circulating claim to be from research organisations affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation. They appear to offer information such as safety measures to combat coronavirus, or a list of infected people in the recipient’s area. The victim is asked to click on a link to access this information, which leads to a malicious website. Alternatively, they’ll be asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.
Action Fraud advises you do not click on links or attachments in these suspicious emails. And never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
Get rich quick
There has been a large increase in criminals attempting to entice people into becoming money mules through offers of making easy cash during these worrying times.. However the consequences of letting criminals use your bank account can be life-changing. You should always reject any offers to do this.
The Financial Conduct Authority has warned against a raft of cons that fraudsters are employing in a bid to get hold of your cash. These include scammers seeking ‘investment’ for ‘good causes’ like the production of hand sanitiser or new drugs to treat coronavirus, with the criminals promising high returns to entice consumers. They’re also warning about other scams such as criminals who are cold calling, emailing, texting or sending WhatsApp messages claiming your bank is in trouble due to the crisis. They then try to push you into transferring your money to a new bank with alternative banking details.
To protect yourself from coronavirus scams, the FCA advises people to:
- Use the Financial Services Register and Warning List to check who you are dealing with
- Reject offers that come out of the blue
- Beware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online
- Do not click links or open emails from senders you don't already know
- Avoid being rushed or pressured into making a decision
- Do not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details)
For more on what to watch out for, click here.
On the doorstep
National Trading Standards has warned of a number of coronavirus scams, including some that target people in their homes. These include criminals claiming they represent a charity and offering to do shopping for older people, then taking their money and not returning.
National Trading Standards says there are genuine charities providing support and that people should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity. It also advises people to be suspicious of requests for money up front. And that if someone attempts to pressurise you into accepting a service, they’re unlikely to be genuine and that people should check with family and friends before accepting offers of help if they’re unsure.
For more info, click here.
To report a coronavirus scam visit Action Fraud’s website or call 0300 123 2040.
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