Scams and Fraud during Covid-19

Law enforcement, government and private sectors partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic.

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. The advice is:

Stop: Taking a moment to stop and 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. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

 

The bank or the police will NEVER ask people to transfer money or move it to a safe account.

Criminals are targeting people looking to buy medical supplies online, sending emails offering fake medical support and scamming people who may be vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home. These frauds try to lure people in with offers that look too good to be true, such as high return investments and ‘healthcare opportunities’, or make appeals for support to bogus charities or those who are ill.

Reports from the public have already included online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived and a number of cases have been identified where fake testing kits have been offered for sale.

Criminals are also using Government branding to try to trick people, including reports of using HMRC branding to make spurious offers of financial support through unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.

This situation is likely to continue, with criminals looking to exploit further consequences of the pandemic, such as exploiting financial concerns to ask for upfront fees for bogus loans, offering high-return investment scams, or targeting pensions.

Huge increases in the number of people working remotely mean that significantly more people will be vulnerable to computer service fraud where criminals will try and convince you to provide access to your computer or divulge your logon details and passwords. It is also anticipated that there will be a surge in phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates, or compensation.

Any scams or fraud can be reported to Action Fraud online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling  0300 123 204

Cyber Aware from the National Cyber Security Centre has launched a new national reporting service for phishing emails. The Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS for short) is an email address that you can forward suspicious-looking emails to.This will help them to identify scam email accounts, block links to fraudulent websites and ultimately take down even more online scams. If you have received an email which you’re not quite sure about, forward it to SERS: report@phishing.gov.uk You can find more information about the service at https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/information/report-suspicious-emails

NHS Test and Trace

NHS Test and Trace Action Fraud

The NHS test and trace programme is designed to limit the spread of transmission of coronavirus, and works by finding those who have come into contact with someone who has become infected and telling them to isolate via a phone call, email or text message. 

However, some people, particularly the vulnerable or elderly, could be susceptible to fake calls or messages from criminals looking to get access to personal information.

Contact tracers will only call you from the number 0300 013 5000. Anyone who does not wish to talk over the phone can request the NHS Test and Trace service to send an email or text instead, inviting them to log into the web-based service.

All text or emails sent by NHS Test and Trace will ask people to sign into the contact tracing website and will provide you with a unique reference number. We would advise people to type the web address https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk directly into their browser, followed by the unique reference number given to you, rather than clicking on any link provided in the message.

Remember, NHS contact tracers will NEVER

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind
  • ask for any details about your bank account
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone  
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS
  • Send someone to your home

For more information on the programme, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-nhs-test-and-trace-service

Scam and Fraud prevention

Online Shopping and Auction Fraud

Seek advice: If you’re purchasing goods and services from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask friends or family for advice before completing a purchase.

Scam messages: Be wary of unsolicited emails and texts offering questionably good deals, and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

Payment method: Avoid paying for good and services by bank transfer as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use a credit card or payment services such as PayPal.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Computer Software Service Fraud

Installing software: Never install any software, or grant remote access to your computer, as a result of a cold call.

Financial details: Genuine organisations would never contact you out of the blue to ask for financial details such as your PIN or full banking password.

Tech support: If you need tech support, ask your friends or family for recommendations and look for reviews online first. Don’t contact companies promoting tech support services via browser pop-ups.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

If you granted remote access to your computer: Seek technical support to remove any unwanted software from your computer. Ask your friends or family for recommendations and look for reviews online first. Don’t contact companies promoting tech support services via browser pop-ups.

Lender Loan Fraud

Seek advice first: Speak with a trusted friend or family members first if you’re using a loan company you’re unfamiliar with, or if the lender requires an up-front fee.

Scam messages: Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

FCA register: Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register to check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Pension Liberation fraud

Investment opportunities: Don’t be rushed into making an investment. Remember, legitimate organisations will never pressure you into making a transaction on the spot.

Seek advice first: Before making significant financial decisions, speak with trusted friends or family members, or seek professional independent advice. The Pension Advisory Service (PAS) also provides free independent and impartial information and guidance.

FCA register: Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register to check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

Tax charges: Ensure sure you are aware of any tax charges (up to 70%), plus other fees, that will be deducted from the amount you withdraw before making any decisions. 

Investment Fraud

Investment opportunities: Don’t be rushed into making an investment. Remember, legitimate organisations will never pressure you into making a transaction on the spot.

Seek advice first: Speak with a trusted friend or family members, and seek independent professional advice before making significant financial decisions.

FCA register: Use the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) register to check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated, you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

Advice for businesses - Mandate Fraud

Verify: If you receive a request to move money into a new bank account, contact the supplier directly using established contact details, to verify and corroborate the payment request.

Internal processes: Establish robust internal processes for handling changes to payment details. For example, only designated employees should be able to make changes to payment arrangements.

Sensitive information: Invoices, payment mandates, and other documents containing sensitive financial information should be stored securely and only be accessible to those staff that need them to perform their duties. Sensitive documents should be shredded before they are disposed of.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Detailed counter fraud advice is available online, including from Scamsmart, ActionFraud, CIFAS, Take Five to Stop Fraud, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the National Cyber Security Centre