Watch out for scams

Coronavirus scams to look out for

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.

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

Scammers pretending to be from the Council

Council tax scams

Parking scams

Scams on social media

Be wary of anything relating to coronavirus support by text message or social media that doesn’t come from an official source, such as the Council, UK Government, Citizen’s Advice or the NHS.

You can help protect yourself on social media by:

  • checking anything that appears suspicious. For example, does the website link match the official website of the organisation that the claim appears to be from? If not, do not click on the link
  • if in doubt, you can contact the official organisation that the offer claims to be from via social media, email or phone number, to check its authenticity
    • please note that official accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tend to have a ‘blue tick’ next to their account name to show that they’re verified
  • check a phone number with a second source such as the organisation’s website
  • even if the post comes from someone you trust, their account may have been compromised or spoofed. Send them a message to ask if they posted the offer. Be careful though, they may not realise that it is a scam themselves. It’s always best to check if something doesn’t look right
  • for official information about support available during the pandemic, always search the Government’s website to ensure that this support offer is genuine

If you’ve been a victim of a social media scam, visit Citizen’s Advice for help.

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.

Signs to look out for

  • if you are being asked for money and put under pressure to act immediately
  • you are asked to provide your bank account details
  • you are asked to make a purchase to win a prize
  • you need to contact a premium rate number
  • you receive an unsolicited call
  • the business contacting you is reluctant to give their address or contact details

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.

You can report phishing emails on Gov.uk.

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.

You can report phishing emails on Gov.uk.

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.

You can report phishing emails on Gov.uk.

Page updated on: 15 November 2020