Coronavirus – watch out for scams

Unfortunately, there have been reports of criminals who are trying to take advantage of people’s vulnerability at a time when they are likely to be distracted by concerns regarding the coronavirus.

It’s worth taking time to make sure you are protecting yourself and your family from those trying to take advantage of this situation.

Scams to look out for

Citizens Advice, Which? and Action Fraud have highlighted the following types of Coronavirus scams to look out for:

  • official looking emails that imitate organisations like Ofcom or HMRC, which ask you to click on a link with the aim of uploading malicious malware onto your computer
  • official looking emails offering tax relief that send you to fake websites imitating HMRC, where the aim is to get you to provide bank details
  • phone calls where scammers pretend to be from organisations offering assistance and asking for your bank details or for you to transfer money
  • criminals knocking on front doors offering to go shopping for people who are self-isolating at home
  • online shopping scams involving sought-after items like face masks and hand sanitizer

How to protect yourself and vulnerable family members

The most important thing to remember is if you are contacted by someone you don’t know, either in person, by phone or online, be cautious. If something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. If you can’t be sure, check with someone you trust, or contact the police on 999 in emergencies and 101 in all other instances.

Be wary of unexpected visitors to your home, especially now

If someone claiming to be from an organisation knocks on your door unexpectedly, don’t let them in. Current advice is to stay at least six feet away from people who don’t live in your house.

Ask the person to wait outside and contact the organisation they claim to be from. Or if this is not possible, contact someone you trust. If the visitor is genuine, they’ll understand. If they turn out not to be genuine, contact the police and alert friends and family.

Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, emails and texts

Be careful of anything you weren’t expecting that claims to be from an organisation such as a bank, HMRC, Ofcom, BT, PayPal, Microsoft and other large, trusted organisations. At the moment, particularly watch out for unsolicited emails claiming to come from health bodies such as the NHS and the WHO.

Don’t be pressured into acting quickly

Automated scam phone calls and emails are often designed by criminals to scare you into acting quickly and parting with cash and banking information. If you feel pressured into doing something quickly, don’t do it.

Look out for poor grammar and spelling

Scam emails, texts and letters are often clumsily written with typos and spelling mistakes. For example, no spaces after commas and missing full stops.

Check the email address

Spam emails are often sent from email addresses that include additional unnecessary letters and numbers, so it’s best practice to check the email address as well as the text in the email.

Does the correspondence address you by name?

Legitimate emails from services you have accounts with will always address you by your name. Scam emails and texts usually start with ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Customer’.

For more information on how to check if something is a scam, visit Citizens Advice where you will find further guidance.

Page updated on: 27 March 2020