Fraudsters and scammers across the UK are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to target the elderly and vulnerable.
As people are staying at home, working remotely, doing their shopping online, and increasingly living a ‘virtual’ existence, they are potentially putting themselves at higher risk from unscrupulous scammers, warn Police.
A total of £5,341,592 has been reported lost by 2,204 victims of coronavirus-related scams across the UK, according to Action Fraud.
These frauds range from shopping scams, to criminals using Government or HMRC branding to make offers of financial support through emails, phone calls and text messages, as well as fake websites pretending to be genuine companies.
“We want to ensure you are equipped with the tools to be able to recognise a fraudulent crime when it is happening and that you are able to protect yourself and/or your business from becoming a victim of fraud,” says a spokesman.
Fraud is an ever-evolving crime that takes many shapes and forms. Fraudsters are often clever individuals who are good at their jobs and constantly finding new ways to target their victims. Some of the current, most popular types of fraud include online shopping fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, romance fraud, courier fraud, and banking fraud.
We are also urging members of the public to be vigilant of fraudsters posing as people from the NHS test and trace service.
The test and trace service is part of the Government’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, with contact tracers getting in touch with those who have had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. However, a number of fraudsters are using this to their advantage and tricking people into sharing personal and/or financial information.
Remember that if the NHS test and trace service contacts you, the service will use text messages, email or phone.
All texts or emails will ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website.
If NHS test and trace calls you by phone, the service will be using a single phone number: 0300 013 5000.
All information you provide to the NHS test and trace service is held in strict confidence and will only be kept and used in line with the Data Protection Act 2018.
Contact tracers will:
• call you from 0300 013 5000
• send you text messages from ‘NHStracing’
• ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website
• ask for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating
• ask about the coronavirus symptoms you have been experiencing
• ask you to provide the name, telephone number and/or email address of anyone you have had close contact with in the two days prior to your symptoms starting
• ask if anyone you have been in contact with is under 18 or lives outside of England
Fraudsters often target elderly and vulnerable people, for whom the consequences may be devastating – emotionally and financially.
Fraudsters are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. They can contact you by phone, email, text, on social media, or in person.
With a few simple tips and security measures, it is easy to keep yourself and/or your business safe from becoming a victim.
Top tips for individuals to keep themselves safe from fraud:
Stop: Taking a moment to think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse, or ignore any requests. It’s also ok to take some time to check out those requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you have fallen victim to a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
Always remember: 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.
Do not click on links or attachments in unexpected or suspicious texts or emails.
Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly.
Top tips for businesses to keep themselves safe from fraud
Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. They will spend hours researching your business, hoping you will let your guard down for just a moment.
Stop: If you receive a request to make an urgent payment, change supplier bank details, or provide financial information, take a moment to stop and think.
Challenge: Could it be fake? Verify all payments and supplier details directly with the company on a known phone number or in person first.
Protect: Contact your business’s bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed and report it to Action Fraud.
Keeping your business secure online:
Criminals will try and gain access to your device or network, and everything stored on it. They can do this by: sending emails with malicious attachments, exploiting vulnerabilities in your operating systems if they are not up-to-date, trying to get you to click links or visit malicious websites.
Once they have access to your device and your data, they may try to steal your data or extract money from you by getting you to pay a ransom. There are a number of steps you can take to protect your device and operating systems and educate others on your network. Please visit the NCSC website to find out more.
We have produced a COVID-19 fraud guide, which you can download from here, offering detailed information about the latest scams, and tips on how to keep yourself safe from becoming a victim.
For more information about different types of fraud, and further details about how you can keep yourself safe from becoming a victim of fraud read the Little Book of Big Scams guide book