- Recently the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) reported a new trend in fraud related to Coronavirus, or COVID-19.
- Criminals will use every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people and they will continue to exploit every angle of this national crisis.
- the majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, COVID-19 testing kits and other products, which have never arrived.
- other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud, lender loan fraud, suspect company offering free food vouchers but is taking people’s data and charging them with marketing texts.
- huge increases in the number of people working remotely presents an opportunity for criminals to commit computer software service fraud.
- it is also anticipated that there will be a surge in phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates, or compensation.
Some of the tactics being used in phishing emails and texts include:
• Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.
• Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates.
• Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
• Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing. We have also had reports of people receiving similar text messages. Another MO involves emails purporting to be from HMRC asking them to check their entitlement and make a claim by a specific date to receive any possible repayments. Recipients are asked to click on a link to start a claim.
• Smishing scams claiming to be from .gov.uk. Again, different MOs but examples seen include advising the victim their phone data has shown they have left their home more than once and they should phone a number to pay a fine or risk further punishment. In others reports, text messages were sent informing victims they can claim £458 of coronavirus aid. This text features a link to a fake government website, which urges users to enter their postcode to apply for COVID-19 relief.
• Emails stating that Virgin Media is cancelling subscription charges in light of COVID-19. Recipients are asked to click on a link to prevent them from being charged. We’ve also seen several reports relating to phishing abuse in other brands, for example TV licencing phishing attempts, BT Broadband and Amazon phishing emails.
In addition, fraudsters are sending emails:-
• Selling or giving away face masks, loo roll, immunity oils etc.
• Shipping or selling COVID-19 testing kits and emergency medical and survival kits at a reduced rate
• Providing health alerts and advice with links on receiving updates and how to avoid the virus
• Encouraging recipients to invest in bitcoin or other financial schemes due to the pandemic’s effect on the economy
• Asking recipients to contribute to various COVID-19 related charitable funds e.g. WHO ‘solidarity response fund’ / Centre for Disaster Philanthropy response fund.
1) Watch out for scam messages
Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
2) Shopping online:
If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
For more information on how to shop online safely, please visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/shoponlinesafely
3) Protect your devices from the latest threats:
Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.
For information on how to update your devices, please visit: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/securing-your-devices
4) Take a moment and think
Remember to take a moment to think before parting with your money or information, especially if the request has come from a cold call, or unexpected text or email. Could it be fake? Do you know or trust the person it’s come from? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you. Take your time to discuss what is being asked of you with friends or family.
5) Don't give out your password or PIN
The police, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account. They will never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN.
6) Protect your information with Two Factor Authentication - 2FA
2FA is a free security feature that adds an extra layer of protection to your online accounts and can stop cyber criminals in their tracks – even if they have your password - so make sure this is turned on on your devices.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk.
Detailed counter fraud advice is available online, including from Scamsmart, CIFAS, TakeFive, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the National Cyber Security Centre. There is bespoke advice about COVID19 fraud on the Action Fraud website.
To report offers of financial assistance from HMRC contact [email protected].
Article from Action Fraud website on link below: