Fraudsters are unfortunately always out there around the world, taking advantage of vulnerable people. During this Coronavirus outbreak, many of us may be distracted and changing our routines so we need to take further measures in order to protect ourselves, especially as these scams are expected to rise. Action Fraud, the UK's National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre has announced that in February, Coronavirus scams cost victims a total of £800k.
See below for our advice on how to protect yourself, your personal data, and your money by spotting scams and avoiding them.
Types of Scams
Fraudsters are targeting the vulnerable by any means they can including;
- Phone Call
- Social Media
- Home Visit
- Fake websites
These scams use any of the forms of contact from above and can include the selling of protective products, COVID-19 test kits, COVID-19 treatments, insurance policies, tax refunds, investment opportunities, help with errands, grocery shopping and more.
Selling Counterfeit Products
There's been a fair amount in the news recently regarding counterfeit face masks, hand sanitizer and Coronavirus tests being sold. International Police have seized over 34,000 fake face masks and parts of London have seen conmen going door to door to exploit the fears of the vulnerable, conning people to believe that they are government officials and are testing for the Coronavirus in the area. A man from West Sussex, UK, was recently charged with selling fake COVID-19 treatment kits (20th March) which contained harmful substances including potassium thiocyanate and hydrogen peroxide.
Fake Company Emails
Fake company emails often;
- Promote goods and services to purchase from on a fake website (where you will never receive what you have purchased)
- Ask for money to help someone, a group of people or a charity (non-genuine)
- Ask for the recipient of the email to download something. The download is a virus that is then used to steal personal data including financial information.
It's been discovered that fraudsters recently setup realistic-looking websites of companies, including those that are global organizations. However, they are fake! It's been reported that fake emails claiming to be The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been sent which included viruses and/or asking for donations.
As a note to remember, The WHO and CDC will never email the general public.
Phishing emails come from fraudsters who are pretending to be from a legitimate company. These emails tend to have a link in them which directs the recipient of the email to a fake website asking to input personal details. These details are then sent straight to the fraudsters to use and abuse.
We all like to do our part in helping charities, both in our own country and around the world. With scams being on the increase, fraudsters take the opportunity to make up a charity name based on any current national or worldwide situation that is making people vulnerable, in this case, Coronavirus. They may be asking for a donation to help with creating a vaccine or for food for those who are classed as at risk and unable to leave the house.
The majority of charities are registered on the gov.uk website here: https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information
Offers of Errands
Although there are lots of friendly people in the world, there are fraudsters and conmen that are happy to con people when face-to-face. If you receive offers by strangers of errand running and collecting groceries for you, kindly decline. The stranger may be genuine, however, if they are a fraudster, they will do their best to obtaining PIN numbers and cash.
How to Protect yourself
- Never be afraid of questioning any unexpected contact or requests
- Don't let strangers into your home
- Don't pay for goods and services online via a bank transfer
- Check a charity first before signing up with them or handing over any money: https://www.gov.uk/find-charity-information
- Check the Email; Is it addressed to you personally or Dear Sir/Dear Customer, Are their grammatical errors? Has it come from an unknown sender or a sender with an appended word? For example; suitsmecardxyz < this would not come from us
- Don't be pressured into making a decision. An authentic and reputable company or charity wouldn't and shouldn't pressure a person
- Never give your personal details including your bank details, your long card number, CVV number on the back of your card, your PIN, passwords or any other personal details or identification numbers
- If you receive a call from someone who claims to be from your bank or another provider and you are unsure if they are telling the truth, tell them that you will call them back. Find the companies official number from their website or the back of your card (if it's your bank who has called) and call them back.
- Don't click a link within an SMS or call the number back if you are unsure. Again, find the correct company details online and contact them directly
Think you may have been a victim of a scam?
If you think you have been a victim of a scam, please contact our customer care team as soon as possible and we will do our very best to help.