Pandemic themed scams
Fraudsters are using the current pandemic to commit fraud against the most vulnerable people in our society and scam them out of their hard earned money.
There has been an increase in demand for camper vans and motor homes as people have been stuck at home and thinking about travelling within the UK when they are able to. Fraudsters have realised this and are flooding online auction sites with fake listings for these vans and motor homes and have been using the Covid-19 lockdown to trick people into handing over funds for vehicles which they have not been able to view in person.
Fraudsters have copied listings from legitimate camper van adverts to attract victims before explaining the vehicle will be delivered once the cash has been paid into a holding account. The money is taken straight away from this account and the customer is left without a vehicle and their money.
A recent victim of this scam lost £5,000 when he spotted a motor home on eBay and contacted the seller who informed him that due to lockdown, the motorhome would be delivered by a transport company. The seller asked for funds to be sent to an account and even emailed the victim a copy of his passport as ‘evidence’ to the genuine purchase. Once he transferred the funds, he heard nothing more from the seller and never had delivery of the vehicle.
- When using online auction sites, always make the payment via PayPal or the site's own payment method rather than a bank transfer or cash
- If the price seems too good to be true – it’s likely to be a scam
- Google has an image search facility which means you can see how many times the picture has been used to determine if it’s a genuine sale or not
- If you suspect an auction is a scam – report it to the auction site.
Phishing, vishing and smishing
Email and text scams are being sent to victims either asking to click on a malicious link and loading Malware to their computer or phone or demanding payments. The latest Covid-19 scams have been some of the following.
- Lockdown fines
Victims have received texts or emails claiming to be from the Government and stating that they have received a fine for stepping outside during the coronavirus lockdown. The scam says the victims movements have been monitored through their phone and they must pay a fine or face a more severe penalty. Some of these texts have been added to the text trail from the text the UK received from UK GOV to make is look even more legitimate.
The NHS Test and Trace has been launched in regards to COVID-19 and criminals are using this to scam victims. Reports have been made to Action Fraud where fraudsters ask victims to call a premium rate number, ask for a payment for testing kits (which are free on the NHS), asks for personal information or to download software to their computer or phone.
Emails and texts have been received, supposedly from HMRC which are designed to steal your account details and offer a goodwill payment ‘as part of the NHS promise to battle the Covid-19 virus’, all they need are your personal details to make the payment.
- Free school meals
Another scam email that has been seen and designed to steal your bank details states that: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’.
- Conspiracy theories
Another email scam seen pulls their victims in by offering conspiracy theories such as ‘there is no vaccine for coronavirus’. This then has a number of articles you can click on which will take you to either phishing sites or sites that can infect your computer with Malware.
- Be wary of any email or text that you weren’t expecting and in particular, watch out for unsolicited emails claiming to come from health bodies such as the NHS. Genuine NHS Test and Trace will never ask for this sort of information. If you receive a call from the NHS Test and Trace, they will call you from 0300 0135 000 and the only website they will ask you to visit is contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk
- Recent scam email and texts supposedly coming from Government agencies are clumsily written and are full of typos
- Legitimate emails from services you have accounts with will always address you by name; phishing emails and smishing texts usually start with something nondescript such as ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Customer’
- Always be wary with something that asks you to click on a link – instead, look up the website and investigate it
In addition to emails and texts, fraudsters are using telephone calls to scam people who do not use computers or mobiles. These calls follow the usual scam pattern of claiming to be authority figures including police, HMRC or your bank and request that you are to move your money or hand over sensitive account information.
- Be wary of any phone call you receive that you weren’t expecting. If in doubt, end the call, wait 10 mins and call the company on a number you already have or have obtained indirectly.
- A bank, other financial institution or any other authority figures will never ask you to move your funds or ask for your personal log on information.
Door to door
There have also been reports of fraudsters taking advantage of older people by knocking on their doors and trying to access their property by offering to take their temperature, clean their homes or offering to do their shopping. Instead, the fraudsters burgle their home or take the money given to do their shopping and never come back. There have also been similar scams reported where the caller offers to take a pet away to be tested for Covid-19 but instead steals them to sell.
- Only accept help off people you know and trust
- You do not have to agree to anything you don’t feel comfortable with
- Police, health workers and others would not call at your house to test for coronavirus or ask for money regarding investigations
- Check the person calling at your door has valid identification, especially if they are dressed in uniform
- If in doubt – keep them out!
Since the lockdown, there have been a number of items which people have been unable to purchase and fraudsters have taken advantage of this. Scams have been seen offering testing kits, vaccines, protective face masks, hand sanitiser and PPE all of which are fake and either asking victims to click on malicious links or asking for bank details.
- Always purchase goods from genuine websites or apps
- Never purchase goods from an unknown site where the prices seem too good to be true
- If in doubt, pay with PayPal or a credit card as you may be covered if the goods don’t turn up (depending on the value).
Due to a number of people being out of work over the lockdown period, fraudsters have been advertising fake jobs on recruitment sites. These adverts either ask you to click on a malicious links or ask for your bank details in the hope you can launder their funds or become a money mule.
- Research any company that contacts you in regards to a job offer
- Research the job and salary to see if this is in line with other offers
- Never provide your bank details before signing a contract.
Posts have been seen on social media sites where a ‘free voucher’ is offered by clicking on a link and have included supermarkets and online sites such as Amazon. These vouchers have been for a few hundred pounds so can be very tempting. Although this isn’t a new scam, the fraudsters have linked it to Covid-19 by saying; ‘This shop is supporting the nation during the coronavirus pandemic'.
- Contact the company directly to see if the voucher is genuine
- Always remember, if it’s too good to be true – it probably is
As people are home more, maybe out of work or lonely as they are unable to socialise, fraudsters are again taking advantage of this by targeting these sorts of people with romance scams. These scams have been linked to Covid-19 by saying they need money to buy equipment, fly out of a country due or even that they are out of work and need funds to live on.
- Be wary when they start asking you for personal information, declare their love for you in a matter of days, give vague information about themselves, provide emotional stories and start to say they have fallen on hard times as this is when they usually start asking for money
- Never send any money to a person you have never met
- Don’t share personal details which could allow access to your accounts
- Pick reputable dating website and use their messaging services.
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