(Updated 24 June 2024)

How to spot Coronavirus scams

spotting scams

Scams are one of the most common types of crime in the UK, and unfortunately the Coronavirus crisis is giving the fraudsters the perfect environment to thrive.

Action fraud has reported that scams related to Coronavirus have cost victims over £800,000 in just one month. This guide will help you to look out for Phishing scams and dubious phone calls.

Phishing Scams

What is it?: Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain your sensitive information such as Passwords, Usernames and Credit Card details by pretending to be a person or organisation that you trust. Phishing generally takes place by email. If it happens by SMS it can be called Smishing.

What happens?: You could receive an email from what you believe is a genuine organisation – a common organisation at the moment is The World Health Organisation (WHO). This email will usually ask you to clink a link and fill out a form in exchange for information. Filling out this request will mean you are giving your information to criminals.

People have also reported receiving messages from HMRC asking for their bank details to receive some sort of tax relief. HMRC will never ask for your bank details.

In other cases you may be asked to click on a link which may take you to a genuine site, however clicking the link will allow the criminals to download software on to your device which will allow them to look at your personal information and steal this.

What to do: So you don’t fall victim to these scams follow these simple steps:

  • Never feel pressurised in to filling in forms or clicking links. If you don’t trust it, delete it.
  • Don’t be taken in by the sender’s name. It’s easy to put a different name in the “from” box.
  • Look out for spelling and grammatical errors. Not all criminals make mistakes, but many do.
  • Check the web address (URL) before your click the link. If the website doesn’t look right then steer clear. You could always search the organisation to check their URL.
  • Don’t enter data into a website that shouldn’t be asking for it.

Be wary of phone calls and visitors to your home

older man on the phone looking stressed

What is happening?: The public are being warned to expect an increase in scam calls and maybe even visitors to their homes. It is expected that these calls will follow the usual pattern of scam phone calls or visitors that may pretend to be from an authority such as your bank or the Police asking you to hand over sensitive information.

Scammers could also claim to be from an Insurance Company or Claims Management Company offering to help you recuperate your losses by submitting a claim for the cost a cancelled holiday, wedding or other event.

It has been reported that some nasty scams include targeting the elderly people being targeted by fraudsters with the offer of house cleaning services or to have a test done to see if they are suffering with Coronavirus.

Other scams could you ask you to invest in good causes, such as manufacturing of new drugs to treat Coronavirus, with the promise of a healthy reward for your investment to entice you to invest.

What to do:

  • If anyone comes to your door, check their ID.
  • If you are interested in what they’re offering, don’t be pressurised in to making a decision there and then. Take time to think about it.
  • If a service is being offered, shop around and get quotes from other businesses.
  • If you’re interested in service that someone has unexpectedly called you about, tell them you’ll call them back later – wait half an hour before you do so

Scams selling face masks and hand sanitiser

hand sanitiser bottlesWhat is it?: Other potential scams that have been reported include criminals claiming to sell much sought after things such as face masks and hand sanitiser. These are especially prevalent on Social Media.

What to do:

  • Research the item and see if it’s available elsewhere. Supermarkets are now putting limits on the amount of items you can buy so there should be more products available in the shops.
  • Does the person selling the item live near you? If they are selling on a local social media page but live in another part of the country, this is often a sign of a scam.
  • Don’t pay for something that will need to be posted to you.

What are the main key points to look out for?

  • Unsolicited emails and texts: be careful of anything you weren’t expecting which claims to be from an organisation such as a bank, BT, Sky, PayPal, Microsoft, the BBC or other large, trusted organisation. Be particularly wary of unsolicited emails claiming to come from health bodies such as the NHS and the WHO.
  • An urgent tone: phishing messages are designed to pressure/scare you into clicking on their links.
  • Grammar and spelling: Many criminals make mistakes when writing their Phishing emails or text messages. Look out for mistakes.
  • No name: Legitimate companies will always address you by name in their communications, if a message asking for your information addresses you as “Dear Customer” be wary

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