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Protecting your family from coronavirus scams


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16 November 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has, for many, brought out the best in people and there is a real sense of unity between communities. Unfortunately though, the pandemic has also presented a prime opportunity for fraudsters to prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable, through a number of different online and offline scams.

According to Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Reporting Centre, coronavirus scams cost victims in the UK over £800,000 in a single month. With a rise in the number of coronavirus related scams being reported to Action Fraud, and the increasing sophistication of these scams, we share details of three to be aware of.

Email Scams

There are several different types of coronavirus email scams. One example is an individual being sent an email that appears to be a notification about a coronavirus test result. This fake email says that the recipient should get a call from their doctor to schedule an appointment to discuss their NHS Test and Trace results. However, in the meantime, the recipient is directed to a fake website and given a PIN number to download the alleged coronavirus test result.

This is all part of a sophisticated online scam which aims to trick people into downloading software onto their computer or mobile device. After clicking the link and downloading the software, unsuspecting victims are notified that this was all part of a scam, and they are asked to handover a substantial amount of money to retrieve their personal data.

As always, whenever you are browsing the internet, don’t click on unknown links in emails, texts or email attachments.

Doorstep Scams

Opportunists can use lockdown as a chance to approach people whilst they are spending most, if not all of their time, at home. There have been reports of people knocking door to door claiming to carry out in home testing for coronavirus on behalf of the NHS.

The NHS is not carrying out door to door testing so please do not let anyone you do not know into your home.

Charity Fraud

Fraudsters are also pretending to work for well-known charities who are publicly fundraising for the pandemic. This can be through text messages and emails, or cold calling and knocking door to door to ask for donations, by asking for your personal details including financial information.

According to thirdsector.co.uk, charities have reported being victims of fraud or cybercrime 645 times since the start of the coronavirus crisis. This amounts to £3.6m in total losses to charities.

If someone you were not expecting knocks on your door claiming to be from a charity or from a public utilities provider, if you are in any doubt about whether the individual/s are genuine, do not open the door. If you call the company the individual is claiming to be from, the company will be able to verify their identity.

What to do if you suspect or need to report a scam

If you are concerned about a potential scam, would like more advice, or to report a scam, please go to the Action Fraud website. You can also contact Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040. This line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Being caught up in a scam can really take its toll emotionally. Often people will feel embarrassed or ashamed. If this has happened to someone you know, please offer them support and a listening ear. It can be easy to fall into the trap of a scam if you are not familiar with the warning signs, so look out for:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes in emails or text messages. Communications written by scammers are often clumsy and include typos or grammatical errors.
  • Not addressing you by name. Legitimate correspondence will usually be personalised.
  • A direct, urgent tone. This is used deliberately to encourage people to click the link included, for example, using words like ‘now’ ‘immediately’ or ‘straight away’.
  • Communications asking for personal information or your bank details are a major red flag as are offers that appear too good to be true. Nine times out of ten, they will be so steer clear.

Other useful resources

Friends Against Scams is a great website with lots of handy hints and tips on being scam aware. It also offers a free 20-minute interactive e-learning session which you can complete here. This session includes spotting scams, different types of scams and top tips for protecting yourself and others against scams.

Action Fraud has also compiled a list of ten scams to be aware of during the pandemic.

Look out for others who may not be scam savvy

Please share this information with anyone you think might find this useful. We can all play our part in keeping our communities protected from opportunists at a time where people are already vulnerable and may be more susceptible to being caught out by a scam.

If you would like to know how we can support you or a loved one to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local Right at Home office.

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