We’ve collated some of the recent warnings about criminals exploiting COVID-19.
Criminals are experts at impersonating people, businesses and the police. The National Cyber Security Centre says that a growing number of them are exploiting the coronavirus outbreak – and the longer the pandemic lasts, the more attacks there will be. Action Fraud says by Thursday 9 April 2020, people had lost more than £1.8m to coronavirus-related scams.
Some recent scams:
- Coronavirus emails have links that can infect your device with computer viruses, and steal your banking or other information. Emails may offer to help you to claim money, to give special information about benefits, vaccines or cures. One email offered to give a list of all the people infected in a particular area. Another example had a Word document attached with specific industry information. The Word document had malware embedded – the same malware that was used for ransom attacks last year.
- Some criminals send emails asking you for money for the NHS, or to fund a new vaccine, or for the World Health Organization. There are also emails offering a tax or utilities refund. Criminals have created web sites about coronavirus that look real, so they can take your banking details. Even if you think an email is genuine, don’t click on the link. Instead, search for the organisation in your browser, so you can make sure you get to the right website.
- Others sell face masks or hand sanitiser, which never arrive. (The World Health Organization says you only need a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected coronavirus, or if you are coughing or sneezing. It’s more useful to stay away from other people and to wash your hands often with soap and water.)
- Be careful of messages asking you to ‘share this information urgently with all your friends’. If they don’t come from Public Health England, the World Health Organization or the NHS, there’s a good chance that they’re fake.
- And if you have vulnerable neighbours who may be targeted by doorstep criminals, please look out for them. Some fake NHS workers offer door-to-door coronavirus tests, and steal whatever they can. Others knock on doors and offer to do shopping – they take the money and never come back. There are also companies that charge huge sums to clean drives and doorways ‘to kill off the virus’.
- Do you have to take action urgently? Criminals want you to act quickly, without giving you time to think.
- Does the message make you feel worried, hopeful, or curious? Threats or teases are designed to make you respond.
- Is the email addressed to you personally, or is it to ‘Dear friend’ or ‘Valued customer’?
- Have you ever heard from this organisation before? If you have, does the email look like other emails you’ve had from the same organisation?
- Does the email ask for personal information, bank account details, passwords, or your PIN number? Or does it ask you to click on a link or open an attachment?
Scam phone calls and texts
- If you get an automated call which asks you to press buttons on your phone, just hang up.
- Beware of anyone who asks you to pay by bank transfer.
- Neither your bank nor the police will ever ask you to give bank details over the phone. And they will never ask you to transfer money to another ‘safe’ account.
- If you are uncertain, offer to call the person back. Check them online, and talk to a friend or relative, before you do.
- Never install any software, or give anyone access to your computer, if they have called you. If you want help with your computer, check reviews online and talk to friends and colleagues before you contact someone.
For more information
- Citizen’s Advice has an online checker which can give you specific advice for checking if something is a scam.
- Think Jessica has information about postal fraud.
- The National Crime Agency is supporting the national Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, to prevent email, online and phone-based fraud.
- National Trading Standards lists some of the recent coronavirus scams.
- There are more tips, plus advice on what to do if you have clicked on something suspicious, on the National Cyber Security Centre website.
- See the Action Fraud website for up-to-date news about scams.
- The Bank of Scotland has a useful list of tips for safe online shopping.
- You can get the latest coronavirus updates on WhatsApp for free from the UK government or the World Health Organization.
Please note: VGC emails
- Any emails from VGC about the coronavirus job retention scheme will be addressed to you personally.
- From 16 April, we will include your name in all our staff update emails.
- Your payslip will always include your last name in the name of the pdf attachment.