News

2Apr2020
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COVID-19 warning: Be aware of fraud and scams

We’ve been made aware by Government authorities and anti-fraud agencies of a number of scams that have been setup by fraudsters to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and exploit innocent members of the public.

It’s important for us to make our tenants, residents and colleagues aware of the lengths that fraudsters are going to and to prevent anyone becoming a victim.

To help protect you from becoming a victim, we’ve pulled together some information from various agencies and authorities.

Online shopping

Cases have been reported where individuals have purchased important medical equipment, including hand sanitiser and protective face masks, making a payment online as part of their purchase and never received the goods.

When considering making a purchase online, it’s important to check the security of a website. You should do this by first carrying out research on the retailer or seller and check their reviews using Trustpilot. You could also check with family and friends to see if they have used the website and if they deem it trustworthy.

If a website directs you to a third-party website to make a payment, this could be a potential risk. Ensure you are protected for your purchases by using a credit card or payment service such as PayPal, and avoid paying for products or services by bank transfer, as this offers little protection against fraud.

Phishing emails

Fraudsters have been using emails to collect personal data about the recipient and even collecting cash payments in exchange for “information” relating to COVID-19.

Below are some examples of how phishing emails have been used so far:

  • HMRC: Criminals are using government branded communication to scam people and offer financial support via emails, text and phone calls. Fraudsters are also falsely offering tax refunds which direct users to fake HMRC websites that harvest their financial and personal details.
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP): Non-official emails have been sent from WHO and CDCP claiming to have a list of active infections in the recipient’s area and to access the information. The victim is required to click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing webpage, where a donation in form of a Bitcoin payment is made.
  • Articles and news updates: Criminals are sending articles about the virus outbreak which includes a link that redirects the recipient to an impersonated fake company website. They are then required to input personal details to subscribe to a daily newsletter.

Computer service fraud

Following a huge increase in the number of people working from home, workers are more vulnerable to computer service fraud. Computer service fraud involves criminals attempting to convince the victim to provide access to their computer. The service then gathers the victim’s usernames and passwords for various systems, allowing them access to emails and various other accounts.

To avoid computer service fraud, avoid allowing companies to remotely access your PC and don’t provide personal or financial details to organisations that contact you out of the blue.

Exploiting any financial concerns caused by COVID-19

The situation is likely to develop over coming weeks and months, with criminals exploiting the financial concerns of many innocent and unsettled people. This could be in the format of asking victims for upfront payments on bogus loans and offering high-return investment scams. It’s important to think very carefully before handing over financial or personal details or money.

It’s important to understand how you can protect yourself from fraudsters as best as possible and share this information with your family and friends.

Take Five to Stop Fraud is a national campaign that offers advice to help everyone protect themselves against financial fraud. Consumers are urged to:

Stop: Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information.

Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

Reporting to Action Fraud can be done online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

To report offers of financial assistance from HMRC contact: phishing@hmrc.gov.uk