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Brits lose £5m to coronavirus scams

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05/06/2020
Unsuspecting victims have lost a combined £5m to coronavirus-related scams since February, latest figures reveal.

Reported losses have this week passed £5m, according to figures from The National Intelligence Fraud Bureau.

Between 1 February and 1 June, more than 2,100 Covid-19 scam cases have been reported to Action Fraud.

But coronavirus fraud losses and attacks could be significantly higher as trade body UK Finance reported consumers lost £317m to push payment (money transfer) fraud last year alone. Against the Covid-19 backdrop, scammers have come up with new avenues to target victims.

Further, data reveals that more than 11,500 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing scams have been lodged as tricksters impersonate trusted official organisations to get people to part with their money and personal details.

The data comes as TSB and Cifas have identified the most common Covid-19 scams Brits have been targeted with during the pandemic:

  • Track and Trace scams: fraudulent apps; as well as emails and texts that tell people they have been in contact with Covid-19 and to click a link or call a number.
  • Homeworking scams: fraudsters take advantage of the increased numbers of people working at home with tricks that include impersonating payroll departments and posing as an internet provider.
  • Bereavement scams: fraudsters target relatives of a recently deceased person with a variety of attacks. They are also contacting people to claim that money has been left by a deceased relative and will ask for bank details.
  • Covid-19 phishing quizzes: common on social media platforms and con people into answering questions that give their personal details straight to fraudsters.
  • Pension scams: strip people of their entire savings as fraudsters convince victims to transfer their pension pots to criminals, or to release funds.
  • Council tax refund scams: typically see a scam text or email impersonating the local authorities and central government. The fraudsters promise a refund but will simply steal bank account details and money.

The organisations said fraudsters were quick to adapt their tactics to exploit vulnerabilities and fears over the pandemic.

In one case, a TSB customer was tricked out of £40,000 but under the bank’s Fraud Refund Guarantee, they received 100% of their money back.

The customer in their 60’s from Scotland was told their account had been targeted by fraud and by creating a sense of urgency, they transferred their savings to a ‘safe account’.

‘People need to be hyper-vigilant of fraudulent activity’

Ashley Hart, head of fraud, TSB, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has seen fraudsters unleash an unprecedented wave of attacks across the UK with complex new scams targeting people at an already difficult time.

“We recognise that losses to fraud can be devastating. That’s why our customers have their money returned to them in full – as we believe every innocent victim deserves all the support needed to get their life back on track again.”

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, said: “Fraudsters are using the coronavirus pandemic to steal money and personal information from innocent members of the public, and we are hearing of new and emerging scams on a daily basis.

“More than ever, people need to be hyper-vigilant of fraudulent activity and not let criminals take advantage of their fear and uncertainty during this difficult time.”

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