Scammers are always on the lookout for vulnerable and scared people that they can take advantage of - and the coronavirus pandemic has created perfect conditions for exactly that.
Numerous coronavirus-related scams have cropped up over the past few months, preying on people that are scared and anxious about the situation.
Online safety awareness resource, Get Safe Online, has compiled a list of all the scams that they have been made aware of that the public should keep an eye out for.
This list has been shared by the likes of official police force Twitter accounts.
The scams to look out for
Get Safe Online said, “In common with most other crisis situations, criminals are using emails, text messages, social media posts, online advertisements and phone calls to defraud their unsuspecting victims.”
These are the scams that Get Safe Online has heard about that you need to keep an eye out for:
- Fake links to Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, in addition to similar, more highly publicised fake links to Zoom
- Fake text messages regarding contact tracing apps which invite you to click on links which only serve to download malware onto your device
- Emails pretending to be from your employer asking for personal details as part of the process of returning to work
- Phone calls pretending to be from supermarket chain Iceland, advertising priority delivery slots for vulnerable customers
- Phone calls pretending to be from your bank offering to collect money as a service for vulnerable people - Get Safe Online says that cards have been collected and funds withdrawn with this scam
- Emails entitled “You are infected” in which you are asked to download an Excel attachment and told to proceed to the nearest health clinic for testing - the Excel sheet is infected with malware
- Emails offering coronavirus insurance cover, or alternatively thanking you for purchasing said insurance and providing a link to your ‘documents’ - you cannot buy insurance against coronavirus
- Emails, social media adverts and texts advertising coronavirus testing kits for home use
- Emails telling you that you have been fined for not observing lockdown rules
- Fake advertisements for protective masks, hand gel and vaccines which do not exist
- Emails (or other messages) pretending to be from the Department of Education which offers free school meals whilst schools are closed, and requesting bank details
- Someone selling a coronavirus ‘cure’ which does not exist
- Appeals from fake charities for donations
- Fake text messages offering NHS and other frontline employees tax refunds from the HMRC to thank them for their efforts
What to do if you encounter these scams
Get Safe Online offers this advice:
- Do not get tempted into ordering coronavirus related products online, especially if it calls for payment by any means other than credit card (which normally adds additional protection)
- Get your up to date coronavirus advice from official sources, such as the government or the NHS
- Check the authenticity of of charity appeals
You should never give your personal information and bank details to someone you don’t know or trust - places like your bank or the HMRC will not ask for sensitive information.
Consumer rights watchdog Which? also has a comprehensive guide on how to spot a scam, which includes advice like:
- Are there spelling or grammar mistakes in the message? Legitimate organisations will rarely, if ever, make glaring spelling or grammatical mistakes
- If you’ve been contacted by someone claiming to be from your bank, get in touch with your bank yourself (not using the contact details provided from the scammer) to verify if the message is legitimate or not
- If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is
- Scammers will often try to hurry your decision making - don’t be pressured into making a decision too quickly. Legitimate businesses and organisations will always give you time to think things through
How to report a scam
There are various ways you can report a scam.
You can call the police on 101 if the scam is local and in your area (for example, someone came to your house pretending to be a charity and asking for donations) or you’ve transferred money to the scammer in the last 24 hours.
You should phone 999 if you feel threatened or unsafe.
You can also report an online scam to Citizens Advice via their online form here.
Alternatively, you can also report a scam to Action Fraud either online here or via the phone on 0300 123 2040.