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Warning as criminals sell fake Covid vaccines

Written by: Emma Lunn
Fraud prevention service CIFAS says scammers are offering fake Covid vaccines, publishing fraudulent jobs adverts, and targeting taxpayers in phishing scams.

CIFAS is warning the public to stay vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using to extract money and information.

Fake vaccines

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has issued a warning about fake Covid vaccines. OLAF has heard reports of fraudsters selling fake vaccines in the EU, as well as fake Covid-19 protection products.

Since opening its investigation last March, OLAF has helped identify more than 1,000 suspicious operations and seized more than 14 million items, including faulty face masks and fake test kits.

The coronavirus vaccine is free on the NHS. The NHS will never ask for bank account or card details, banking passwords or login details, or copies of personal documents such as a passport, driving licence, bills or payslips.

Covid-related jobs

CIFAS has also heard reports of fake Covid-19 related jobs being advertised on social media. These roles advertise a variety of roles from Covid testers to admin support, and in most cases ask for personal and financial details which are later used to commit identity theft.

Jobseekers should research whether a company is legitimate by checking the Companies House website. Anyone who has been offered a job and thinks it might be scam should contact the organisation directly using officially listed contact details to confirm the offer is genuine.

Targeting taxpayers

Taxpayers have reported a new text phishing scam specifically targeting anyone filing a tax return for the 2019/2020 financial year.

The email informs the recipient that they are due a rebate, and asks them to click on a link which takes them through to a fake site that looks similar to the official HMRC website. Victims are then asked for personal details in order to claim their ‘rebate’.

CIFAS is reminding taxpayers that if someone calls, emails or texts claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help, are due a tax refund or owe tax, or asks for bank or other personal details, it might be a scam.

Suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC can be forwarded to and texts to 60599.

Royal Mail ‘depot’

Royal Mail has warned of a new ‘depot scam’ currently doing the rounds in the UK.

This scam involves an email which informs customers that they have missed a delivery and asks them to pay additional potage charges.

The email also includes a link to a webpage where people are asked to upload their personal and financial details in order to rearrange delivery.

Amber Burridge, head of fraud intelligence for CIFAS, said: “As the government begins to outline how the nation will come out of lockdown and recover from the pandemic, it’s important we all remain vigilant to any final attempts by criminals to exploit the situation over the next few months.

“When being asked to click on links and share your personal details, take your time to assess the situation and consider the impact of handing over your details. CIFAS members reported a 195% increase in account takeover fraud in the retail sector in 2020, and it’s believed phishing attacks by criminals to harvest personal information was a key enabler of this fraud. Your personal details could also be used to facilitate identity fraud should they end up in the wrong hands.

“Be wary if you’re contacted out of the blue requesting your details, and if you believe you have fallen for a scam, report this to Action Fraud or Police Scotland immediately.”

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