Coronavirus Scams

Did you know that each year online scammers steal around £500 billion from internet users? That could be from you and me! But don’t panic, help is at hand. Check out our top tips to keep you and your money safe. We really need to be very vigilant in everything we do over the internet.

Tips to Protect yourself from Scammers
There continues to be an emerging trend of criminals taking advantage of the increasing concern around the spread of COVID-19, especially those targeted at older people who may be less aware of potential scams and therefore more vulnerable to them.
We wanted to share some key tips and advice to ensure you or your loved ones, can easily identify a potential scam and protect yourselves. If you know someone who may benefit from these tips please do take the time to share it with them and explain the importance of protecting themselves. These scams can affect everybody and anybody and it is always better to be overly cautious when you feel unsure about any contact or questions that don ‘t feel “quite right”.

  • Key things to remember:
    * Never give a stranger your personal information or bank details, no matter who they claim to be Charities like Age UK or authorities will never ask for bank details over the phone. Always call the organization and ask them to verify their staff someone visits you in person, always ask to see their ID.
    * Know who’s on your doorstep. Check before you open your door, and don’t feel bad about asking someone to leave if you don’t know them. If someone refuses to leave, you can call the police. Never share any account log in details with people e.g. usernames or passwords.
    * Don’t rush into anything. If an Offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
    * Always be cautious! When shopping or going on new websites that ask for your details, ask yourself: who runs the website and can you trust it?
    * Beware of phishing. This is when online scammers try to get hold of your personal details. They might email asking for your credit card information. Their emails may look as if they’re from someone you trust, but they’re not!
    * Don’t click suspicious links. Someone could be trying to steal your personal information or download malware.
    * Beware of malware. Malware is a harmful software programme. Once installed on your computer it can wreak havoc and steal your personal details, like credit card information.
    * Update your software. Legitimate companies try to protect their users from malware by creating updates that stop malware from working. Keeping your software up-to-date will protect you. Installing anti-virus software can help too!
    * Don’t over-share. The more information you put out about yourself (for example on social media) the more opportunity scammers have to trick you.

Hints and tips for spotting a scam in an email or text message:

An urgent tone: Scam messages (text messages or emails) are designed to scare you into clicking on their links. Never rush into clicking on a link.

Grammar and spelling: their has been a phishing/scam email claiming to come from the WHO, IT, like many others is clumsily written and has typos such as no spaces after commas.

No name: legitimate emails from services you have accounts with will always address you by name. Scam emails and texts usually start with ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Customer’ rather than your real name.

Social Media: Be careful when answering social media quizzes, e.g quizzes that you copy and paste onto your Facebook status that ask you questions like the name of your favourite teacher or first pet. These are the same questions you are asked to answer when completing your security questions in case you forget your password when you set up an account for something. Answering questions like this publicly is putting helpful info into the hands of potential identity theft scammers. Think twice before sharing any personal information on social media.

Some other examples of scams that have been reported:

Fake lockdown fines: People have been warned not to fall for a bogus text message saying they have been fined for stepping outside during the coronavirus lockdown. The scam message claims to be from the Government, telling the recipient their movements have been monitored through their phone and they must pay a fine or face a more severe penalty.

HMRC goodwill payment: The MET police are warning of a fake message designed to steal your account details that says ‘As part of the NHS promise to battle the COV-19 virus, HMRC has issued a payment of £258 as a goodwill payment.

Taking Your Temperature: Which reported that they’ve “seen reports of particularly nasty scams where criminals are taking advantage of older people by knocking on their doors. One scam has the criminals offering to take their temperature, thus allowing them into the house, where residents can be robbed or worse.”

Further Examples:
The below list provides a number of examples of COVID-19 scams gathered from law enforcement and Interpol. It may be helpful to read through the examples and call friends/relatives who may be vulnerable to such scams to discuss these with them so that they are aware of the issue and ensure they feel able to contact a trusted person or ourselves here at Age UK Sheffield if they are worried or have any questions about being a victim of a scam.

Doorstep scams:
There are reports of cold callers posing as good Samaritans 111 order to help those in isolation with things like buying shopping and then keeping the money and reports of distraction burglary where people attempt to gain entry with a view to burgling the home. Vulnerable individuals including Older people have been specifically targeted. This is theft and should be reported to the police.

Bogus websites / online marketplaces:
Scammers taking advantage of the COVID-19 fear associated with high demands and shortages of face and surgical masks. They create and set up fraudulent and bogus websites, e-commerce platforms and social media accounts pretending to sell and deliver face and surgical masks. Scammers may just use the name of legitimate companies to give the illusion of authenticity. However, after the victim makes payment, the scammers vanish and the masks are not delivered. There have also been cases where victims are directed to collect the paid face masks from clinics, only for the victims to be Informed that no such an-arrangements were made.

Telephone deception:
In this example, older people have been contacted by the fraudsters who pretend to be a relative currently being treated in hospital after contracting COVID- 19. In some cases, the fraudster will impersonate a doctor. Following this, the victims are asked to pay for the costs of the medical treatment urgently by transferring money or handing over cash or other valuables to “hospital representatives” in person.
A similar MO is where victims receive calls from the fraudster claiming to be a health official. They are told that they need to provide personal or financial information for “contact tracing” In order to identify anyone who may have been in close contact with infected individuals.

Phishing:
Fraudsters are sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails in an attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial details.
Some of the tactics that have been identified from victim reports, Includes fraudsters claiming to be from research organisation ‘ s affiliated with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) contacting potential victims over email. They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this Information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.
There have been additional reports of fraudsters sending out malicious links and documents that claim to contain information on how to protect them from the spread of COVID-19. Some of these emails urge recipients to open a link or page that allegedly contains additional important information.
To open such a page, recipients are asked to log-in with their email address and password. By doing so, criminals are able to install malware into the recipient’s device and steal money or sensitive information. Such letters and emails claim to have been sent by prominent organisations, such as the World Health Organization. Emails such as this should never be clicked on. If it looks suspicious, don’t click on it.
If you are concerned about a potential scam, would like to seek further advice, or report a scam, please visit the national Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre website: www.actionfraud.police.uk/.

We hope you and your families all stay safe and well over the Christmas Period and beyond and that 2021 will see life return to normality once again. Stay Safe Everyone !

Compiled by: G A Villa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *