Scammers have used this pandemic to manipulate and profit from the vulnerable.
They have adopted "phishing" tactics and false pseudonyms to trick people into giving away personal details. That is why Scam Awareness Month could not have come at a better time.
I have collated the best advice from the campaign, and would encourage you to look over the information below so that you know what to look out for.
The essential points are:
Any trustworthy institution will never ask you to provide your passwords, account numbers or PIN codes – or send them money for ‘safekeeping’.
If someone you don’t know visits, calls, emails or sends a letter asking for your details, take your time and consider whether it’s genuine.
REPORT any potential phishing/fraud attempts to the official channels listed below.
With track-and-trace in place, we are being encouraged to pass on our details to the NHS for the greater good of containing the virus. Unfortunately, criminals have been taking advantage of this by contacting people and imitating a tracer. Official tracers will contact you through email, text message or phone call, so it is essential that you know how to spot a real tracer from a fraud.
There has been increased attempts to phish personal details by impersonating HMRC, as the organisation hands out grants, loans and funding.
You’ll never get an email, text message or phone call from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which:
- tells you about a tax rebate or penalty
- asks for your personal or payment information
Check HMRC’s guidance on recognising scams if you’re not sure.
Report any potential scams to HMRC's Phishing Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you receive a suspicious phone call, you can help HMRC’s investigations by providing:
- your phone number
- the caller’s phone number
- the time and date of the call
- a brief description of the call
Data from Citizen's Advice shows that scammers have been exploiting the circumstances, with scams including:
adverts of face masks or medical equipment at high prices
emails or texts pretending to be from the government
emails offering life insurance against coronavirus
people knocking at your door and asking for money for fake charities
It is crucial to be Scam Aware by:
- Checking whether a website is secure
- Following official Government and NHS Channels to find out whether you need equipment and if so, where to source it from.
- Educating yourself on what a scammer's email/phone number may look like so you can prevent contact. More info on Citizens Advice scams advice pages.
- Asking to see the identification card for anyone going door-to-door
Report Internet Scams And Phishing
You can report a misleading website, email or phone number to:
- National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)
- Action Fraud
- Google if it appears as an advert in their search results
- Bing if it appears as an advert in their search results
Key contacts and resources:
The advice to stay alert and vigilant does not only apply to Coronavirus itself, but the increased dangers that fraudsters pose in this new normal.