Unscrupulous and heartless scammers are using the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to carry out frauds and scams around the world, including here at home in Wirral.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified more than 20 reports of fraud where Coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses already amounting to more than £800k.
The nature of the crimes ranges from illegal sales, where victims have made purchases online from fraudulent traders, to phishing scams, which use emails or text messages to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing personal information.
A common tactic at present is for fraudsters to contact potential victims over email purporting to be from the government, or from research organisation affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organisation (WHO).
They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.
The volume of these crimes is expected to rise as the virus continues to spread across the world, so it is vital that people are aware of the kind of scams currently being perpetrated and measures they can take to protect themselves from becoming victims.
Watch out for scam messages
Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details. Hang up on automated telephone calls.
Safe 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. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases. Visit the Action on Fraud website for more information on how to shop online safely
Protect your devices
Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats - here are details on how to update your devices.
Rely on trusted sources
Watch for emails claiming to be from experts saying they have information about the virus. Find out the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus for yourself by visiting the NHS website or the Government website
Any consumers who think may have been a victim should report it to the Citizens Advice National Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.