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The 10 Covid-19 scams you need to watch out for

Written by: Emma Lunn
Criminals are preying on a worried public by tapping into their financial and health concerns about the coronavirus.

Banking trade body UK Finance has warned that fraudsters are using the pandemic as an opportunity to exploit people.

Some scams manipulate innocent victims, urging people to invest and “take advantage of the financial downturn”.

Others impersonate well-known subscription services to get people to part with their cash and personal information. Criminals are even posing as representatives from the NHS Test and Trace service in an effort to trick people into giving away their personal details.

Katy Worobec, UK Finance managing director of economic crime, said: “The banking and finance industry is tackling fraud on every front, investing millions in advance technology to protect customers and working closely with the government and law enforcement to stop the criminal gangs responsible and neutralise the threat.

“We would always urge people to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to keep their  money and personal information safe from fraudsters.”

The 10 scams you should be on high alert for

  1. Criminals are sending emails designed to look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims.
  2. Fraudsters have also been sending scam emails which offer access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’ encouraging victims to fill in a form with their personal information.
  3. Other emails include those offering a ‘council tax reduction’. These emails, which use government branding, contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information.
  4. Potential benefit recipients are offered help to apply for Universal Credit – but scammers will take some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.
  5. Phishing emails purporting to be from the NHS Test and Trace service claim that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. Links in the emails lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
  6. Victims are also being targeted by fake adverts for Covid-related products such as hand sanitizer and face masks which don’t exist.
  7. Watch out for emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, saying you are eligible for six months of free TV license because of the pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website used to steal personal and financial information.
  8. Amid a rise in the use of online TV subscription services during the lockdown, boxset fans have been targeted by criminals sending convincing emails asking them to update their payment details by clicking on a link – but doing so will steal your credit card information.
  9. Targeting those looking for lockdown love, fraudsters are using online dating websites and creating fake profiles on social media sites to manipulate victims into handing over their money. Often criminals will use the identities of real people to strike up relationships with their targets.
  10. Criminals are also using social media websites to advertise fake investment opportunities, encouraging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”.

How to avoid falling for a scam

UK Finance is advising people to follow the advice of its Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and to “stop, challenge and protect” when they receive any messages out of the blue

  • 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.

In order to spot a Covid-19 scam, people should be on high alert if:

  • The website address is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation
  • The phone call, text or emails asks for financial information such as PIN, passwords
  • You receive a call or email out of the blue with an urgent request for your personal or financial information, or to make an immediate payment
  • You’re offered a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper product compared to the original price
  • There are spelling and grammar mistakes, or inconsistencies in the story you’re given

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