It’s important not to let the criminals rush or panic you into making a decision that you later come to regret.
With fake news articles on the internet and in the press promoting remedies, cures and false advice around coronavirus, it’s also important to only share articles from trustworthy sources. If you are in any doubt, then visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus or www.who.int/ for updates and information.
Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. They spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment. Stop and think: it could protect you and your money.
Always follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and Stop, Challenge, Protect when being asked for your money or information.
Emails and text messages
If you receive an email, text or WhatsApp message purporting to be from the government, HMRC, the World Health Organisation (WHO) or a coronavirus-related charity, then take a moment to think before you part with your money or information.
Never click on links or download attachments as criminals may infect your devices with malware or ask you to enter your personal or financial information into fake websites. In some cases this can lead to your identity being stolen.
- Sam received an email from a government department, letting him know that he could claim financial help if he clicked on a link. When Sam clicked the link, he was directed to a fake website designed to look like that of the genuine organisation but which was actually collecting his personal and financial information. Sam failed to receive a payment and was also unaware that his computer was infected with malware as a result of clicking on the link.
The TV Licensing fee changes for over-75s could mean that you’re contacted by a criminal. You may receive emails and/or texts purporting to be from TV Licensing using the organisation’s official branding to convince you it’s genuine. These messages often claim that your payment has failed and include a link to set up a new direct debit.
However, you should avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails as they could lead to fake websites designed to look like that of the genuine organisation but which are in fact set up to obtain your personal and financial information.
- Clara had just finished tending to the garden when she received an email informing her she needed to renew her TV License immediately to avoid cancellation. She considered herself to be quite scam-savvy after falling for a scam the previous year and was confident she could identify a scam email. However, the use of TV Licensing’s official branding in the email convinced Clara it was genuine, and she proceeded to click on the link provided to update her payment details. Little did Clara know she had fallen for yet another scam and had given a criminal enough information to steal her identity.
Below is an example of a scam email:
Council Tax reduction
If you receive an email from a “government department” offering you a council tax reduction then take a moment to Stop, Challenge, Protect. Criminals are using official government branding in emails to convince you they’re genuine and to trick you into giving them your money or information. Emails received often contain links which, when clicked on, lead to an “official looking” webpage designed to access your personal information. In some cases, this could lead to criminals using your identity to commit fraud.
Below is an example of a council tax reduction scam email:
If you receive a call offering you protective face masks, hand sanitiser, testing kits or medicine, be aware that they may not always be genuine. If you do receive a call, don’t be afraid to refuse, reject or ignore their request. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
- Leon thought he was buying face masks and hand sanitisers that were sold out everywhere else. However, after completing his purchase, he failed to receive his order and his money was now in the hands of a criminal.
Social media posts
With world markets currently under immense pressure, the chance to move your money to new investments with unusually high returns may sound like too good an opportunity to miss. Proceed with caution and make sure you check the Financial Conduct Authority’s register for regulated firms, individuals and bodies. It could be fraud or a scam if you’re being pressurised to act quickly. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
- Steve saw an advertisement from a stockbroking firm which claimed that due to coronavirus investments weren’t making the profits that they could be. It said that moving his investment to this firm would guarantee high returns with little to no risk. Steve moved his investment and only realised he had been scammed when he was unable to contact the company on their normal number or via email in order to get his money back.
Criminals are using Covid-19 as a cover story to try and convince people to invest in Bitcoin platforms that claim to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. This may be through emails or adverts placed on social media platforms, often using images of celebrities as endorsement. Clicking on the links contained in these can lead to criminals infecting your device with malware or take you to fake websites designed to obtain your personal and financial information.
- Alisha had sold her house and was looking for ways to invest the proceeds when she spotted a social media post promoting a Bitcoin investment company that claimed it could make her £1,200 a day. She clicked the link in the post, which directed her to a seemingly professional looking website and filled out her contact information. Alisha then received a call from a “cryptocurrency trader” who persuaded her to invest £250. After being emailed graphs and statements that appeared to show great profits, she invested a further £10,000. However, when Alisha tried to withdraw her money, she was unable to contact the company and soon realised she had been scammed.
A knock on the door
You should always exercise caution when accepting help from an individual or allowing them access to your home in any capacity. You should only accept assistance or take visits from people well-known to you, or who you know have been sent by a government body or reputable organisation. If you are in any doubt about someone’s identity, you should take steps to verify it – by directly contacting the organisation they claim to be from using a number you know to be genuine.
If anyone attempts to force or coerce you into handing over funds – in person or otherwise – always contact the police.
- Linda was particularly worried about contracting the virus as she was vulnerable and lived alone. She received a knock on her door from someone claiming to be a health and safety worker advising that they needed to enter her home to complete an assessment and that she needed to pay for this upfront. Linda handed over the money, but no assessment was undertaken.
If you can’t find what you are looking for here there is further help and support on fraud and cyber crime available on gov.uk.