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How to avoid Coronavirus (COVID-19) related fraud

COVID-19 related fraud has increased by 400% in March. Between 1 February 2020 and 18 March 2020, Action Fraud has received 105 reports from victims of COVID-19 related frauds, with losses totalling close to £970,000.

The Majority of the reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitisers, and other products, which have never arrived.

Phishing email scams

Action Fraud has also received over 200 reports about COVID-19 themed phishing emails attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments, or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.

Some of the tactics being used in phishing emails include:

  • Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.

  • Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates.

  • Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.

  • Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing.

Protect yourself

Watch out for scam messages

Don’t click on links, or attachments in suspicious emails and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal, or financial details.

Shopping online

If you’re making a purchase from a company, or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first and ask a friend, or family member for advice before completing the purchase. Where possible use a credit card to make the payment, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

See shop online safely on the Action Fraud website for some simple tips to help you and your family enjoy a secure online shopping experience. 

Protect your devices from the latest threats

Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.

See Securing your devices on the National Cyber Security Centre website for information on how to ensure your devices are as secure as possible.

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