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Reprehensible coronavirus scams set to increase: how to stay safe

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak
Posted:
Updated:
25/03/2020

Unscrupulous fraudsters are using the Covid-19 pandemic to steal money from unsuspecting victims and this is only likely to increase. Here’s how to keep your finances safe.

The public are warned to stay vigilant during these unprecedented times as criminals seek to capitalise on coronavirus fears.

The scammers are impersonating people, organisations as well as the police, and are offering bogus loans, high investment returns, fake coronavirus testing kits and more.

A host of law enforcement, government and private sector partners are working together to combat the criminals and help the public recognise and report scams.

People are urged to:

Stop: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information.

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 National Crime Agency (NCA), said banks and the police will never ask you to transfer money or move it to a safe account.

Scams to watch out for

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 you in with offers that look too good to be true, such as high return investments and ‘healthcare opportunities’, or make appeals for you to support bogus charities or those who are ill.

Online shoppers have reported ordering protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which failed to arrive and fake coronavirus 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.

Surge in scams likely

The NCA, National Economic Crime Centre and City of London Police said the situation is likely to continue, with criminals looking to exploit further consequences of the pandemic.

And with a huge increase in the number of people working remotely from home, it means more people will be vulnerable to computer service fraud where criminals convince you to provide access to your computer or divulge your login details and passwords.

The organisations also anticipate there will be a surge in phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates, or compensation.

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “Criminals are exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to scam people in a variety of ways and this is only likely to increase. We need individuals and businesses to be fully aware and prepared.

“You should always think very carefully before you hand over your money or your personal details.

“We are working together across law enforcement, government and the private sector to combat this criminal activity and protect the public. If you think you have fallen for a scam contact your bank immediately and please report to Action Fraud.”

Security Minister, James Brokenshire, said: “Fraudsters are callous criminals who ruin victims’ lives while lining their own pockets. To take advantage of vulnerable people at this difficult time is particularly reprehensible.

“The government is committed to working with the NCA and all law enforcement partners to tackle this and protect the public.”