Be Scam Aware

SAFE cic’s response to the increasing rise of criminals targeting the vulnerable people within our communities.

In these unprecedented times, with difficult situations and risks to our lives and future wellbeing, we are facing another evil and unnecessary threat.

It seems everyday we are hearing of, or dealing with, devious and chilling new and old ways of exploiting us all, especially the vulnerable amongst us.

This page can be downloaded as a word or pdf document.

The ICO has some useful Anti-Scam info in their blog.

Action Fraud have reported:

  • Coronavirus-related fraud report increased by 400% during March.
  • Coronavirus scams costs victims over £800k in one month

UK and US security agencies issue COVID-19 cyber threat update

The following are some of the most underhand, and for some, plausible schemes.

HMRC Include this warning for the Self-Employed on their Claim Guidance page;

HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online.

Individuals do not need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme.

You will access this scheme only through GOV.UK. If someone texts, calls or emails claiming to be from HMRC, saying that you can claim financial help or are owed a tax refund, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, it is a scam.

Police have issued a warning to be alert for a new text scam which looks something like this;

GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT

New rules now in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus.

We would like to inform you that you have been recorded as leaving your home on 3 occasions yesterday.  A fine of £35 has been added to your gov.uk account. For further information please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-penalty-payment-tracking. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.

The links in our example do not work, as the original ones lead to pages trying to harvest your financial details.

This can arrive as one or two messages.

New fake COVID-19 coronavirus update app.

Be wary of a new emerging scam involving fake phone apps. There are reports of several 'coronavirus update' apps, which claim to provide updates on the virus. The fake app contains a form of 'ransomware', named CovidLock which, upon downloading, locks the phone and displays a message demanding that the user pay a sum of money to unlock it. These apps are available to download from various unofficial websites.

Phone users are advised to only download apps directly from the Apple Store, or Google Play as these are safety checked by the platforms.

COVID-19 ‘home-testing’ scams

Suspicious callers are said to have been knocking on doors of elderly and vulnerable residents in various parts of the UK, saying that they are health officials doing door-to-door testing. Very few health personnel are making home visits, most will already be known. All carry ID cards and will always make an appointment for another visit if needed.

Repair work opportunists during COVID-19 pandemic

CTSI Lead Officer, Katherine Hart, said: "I urge people to ensure that for any emergency work, the price is agreed on upfront and to make sure the agreement is put in writing and with a trusted trader, or one you've used before.

"We are aware of unscrupulous businesses who are trawling through social media and preying on people at this time of crisis, offering to do substandard and unsafe work at grossly inflated prices.

"Any non-emergency work still needs to comply with cancellation regulations and a cooling-off period. If it is a non-emergency, please wait until this crisis is over. Do not put your family at risk by using someone that you don't know."

False claims to cure or prevent COVID-19

Members of the public should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. In addition, some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.

Criminals targeting older people

on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.

Doorstep cleansing services

that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Communities are urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals.

While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support. Consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity and check directly with the charity online or by phone to validate the caller's status. Again, all genuine callers will always make an appointment for another visit if needed

Email scams

that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details being hacked. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.

Phishing

is to try to obtain financial or other confidential information from Internet users, typically by sending an email that looks as if it is from a legitimate organization, usually a financial institution, but contains a link to a fake website that replicates the real one.

Fake online resources

such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’. Always use government, NHS or other official websites for such information

Companies offering fake holiday refunds

for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.

Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits

sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.

As more people self-isolate at home

there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.

There have been reports of thieves extorting money

from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.

Illegal money lenders

are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:

“At a time when neighbourhoods and communities are coming together to support each other, it is despicable that heartless criminals are exploiting members of the public – including some of our most vulnerable citizens – to line their own pockets. I urge everyone to be on their guard for possible COVID-19 scams and to look out for vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who may become a target for fraudsters. “We’re calling on communities to look out for one another. If you see anything suspicious, report it to Action Fraud or to speak to someone for advice, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.”

3. People are being encouraged

to protect their neighbours by joining Friends Against Scams, which provides free online training to empower people to take a stand against scams.

National Trading Standards is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams

4. Citizens Advice

offers help on their site to check if something might be a scam

5. The Government and Age UK

also have useful information about being vigilant

6. Report anything that worries you:

  • internet scams and phishing here
  • phishing attempts to Action Fraud
  • dial 999 if you have been personally threatened or feel unsafe
  • dial 101 if you know the scammer, or you think they are still operating in the local area, or you have transferred money in the last 24 hours           

IMPORTANT: If you have become a victim of phishing via: email, social media, telephone, text, instant messaging, pop up or post then you must cancel you credit cards immediately.