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Beware of COVID-19 Scams

Scams are awful at the best of times, but in a time of crisis, it’s a real shame that fraudsters are still at large and trying to take advantage of the general public, as well as businesses.

Written by Adam Bovan

March 2020

Be vigilant and aware of potential scams

You may be still adapting to working from home, or other changes to your business, but it’s still important to be vigilant and aware of potential scams. The UK’s official fraud reporting service Action Fraud revealed £970,000 had been lost in coronavirus-related scams since the start of February.

Unfortunately, criminals are using the internet, telephones and doorstep calls to exploit fear of the coronavirus pandemic, investigators have warned. Scams have included the sale of fake sanitisers, bogus demands for donations and false offers to run errands for the elderly and vulnerable. Some scammers are offering “health supplements” that claim to prevent infection from the COVID-19 virus. Below are some scams that are creeping up and some tips on how to recognise a scam.

Text scams.

We have all had a text from “UK_Gov” to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives – this is a genuine message from the UK Government.

However, you must be wary of any fraudsters who are sending out text scams that appear to be from genuine numbers. Some of these messages have been crafted to look like they are from the government or you bank.

There has been a text going around saying “We have seen you leave the house more than once and therefore you’re going to be fined”, as well as a text with links on how to get help and money.

Please do not click any suspicious links in texts as many of them are set up to steal your personal information, or even install malware.

Phishing scams.

We’ve spoken about phishing scams on this blog plenty of times, but now cybercriminals are sending emails claiming to be legitimate businesses with information about the coronavirus.

Of course, these are blending in with the sea of emails and correspondence we’re currently receiving from real businesses who have been affected by the crisis.

If an email asks you to open an attachment or click an embedded link, don’t do it without verifying that email is 100% genuine.

Malware can be easily downloaded onto your device in this way and can allow hackers to take control of your computer, log your keystrokes, gain access to your passwords and personal information.

Businesses should also be wary of any emails allegedly sent by suppliers for the same reason.

Always check with the supposed sender via a different means. For example, if you’re suspicious, ring up your supplier, colleague or bank (whoever the email is supposedly from) and double-check that it’s something they sent.

One example is the email from WHO that asks you to click a link to download a PDF offering advice on how to stay safe during the outbreak. However, users who have clicked this link have downloaded malicious software.

Calls and visitors to your home.

As cybercrime increases, we also expect to see an increase in scam callers.

Typically, these callers are people who claim to be authority figures, such as the police, HMRC or your bank and the caller usually is trying to get you to reveal sensitive information like bank details, pin codes login details or even trying to convince you that you need to transfer money to a specific account.

Never hand out sensitive information in this way. Your bank would never ring you up and ask you to transfer your money over the phone.

On top of this, there have been reports of con artists are taking advantage of the elderly by knocking on their doors and offering to go shopping, fix appliances and even take their temperature.

Community spirit is high right now, but only trust and open the door to those who you know. If you do have elderly relatives and neighbours, keep an eye out for them and make sure they have not been taken advantage of.

Scam sellers.

We have also seen a rise in scam sales of protective face masks and hand sanitiser. Don’t be tempted to order items like this, as they may never arrive and your money will be wasted.

There is also a site claiming to sell a WHO COVID-19 vaccine kit. There is no vaccine kit currently available.

Conspiracy and misinformation.

As we have seen a rise in fake news and misinformation over the past few years, it’s only natural that Covid-19 is a hot topic for these websites.

There have been several emails circulating claiming to uncover conspiracy theories, giving out “cures” and spreading fake news stories.

Not only is the misinformation dangerous if we follow or believe it, but the emails themselves are also usually full of links to phishing sites that will infect your device.

Only use and follow the current official guidance that can be found on the NHS website and GOV.UK.

How to spot a phishing scam:

We have several blogs focusing on phishing scams that can be found via the links below:

If you’re unsure about your business security, please do get in touch with us and we’ll see how we can help you. 

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