Beware of online scams & fraud during the COVID-19 outbreak

Friday, 27th March 2020

Criminals are using the Covid-19 pandemic to scam the public – don’t become a victim. 

Law enforcement, government and private sectors partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police.  They spend hours researching you for their scams, hoping you’ll let your guard down for just a moment.

  1. Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe
  2. Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you
  3. Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud
  4. Your bank or the police will NEVER ask you to transfer money or move it to a safe account

    Advice for you

Online Shopping

Seek advice: If you’re purchasing goods and services from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask friends or family for advice before completing a purchase.

Scam messages: Be wary of unsolicited emails and texts offering questionably good deals, and never respond to messages that ask for your personal or financial details.

Payment method: Avoid paying for good and services by bank transfer as that offers you little protection if you become a victim of fraud. Instead, use a credit card or payment services such as PayPal.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Computer Software Service Fraud

Installing software: Never install any software, or grant remote access to your computer, as a result of a cold call.

Financial details: Genuine organisations would never contact you out of the blue to ask for financial details such as your PIN or full banking password.

Tech support: If you need tech support, ask your friends or family for recommendations and look for reviews online first. Don’t contact companies promoting tech support services via browser pop-ups.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

If you granted remote access to your computer: Seek technical support to remove any unwanted software from your computer. Ask your friends or family for recommendations and look for reviews online first. Don’t contact companies promoting tech support services via browser pop-ups.

Advice for your business

Mandate Fraud

Verify: If you receive a request to move money into a new bank account, contact the supplier directly using established contact details, to verify and corroborate the payment request.

Internal processes: Establish robust internal processes for handling changes to payment details. For example, only designated employees should be able to make changes to payment arrangements.

Sensitive information: Invoices, payment mandates, and other documents containing sensitive financial information should be stored securely and only be accessible to those staff that need them to perform their duties. Sensitive documents should be shredded before they are disposed of.

If you have made a payment: Inform your bank as soon as possible, they can help you prevent any further losses. Monitor your bank statements regularly for any unusual activity.

Protection advice

Detailed counter fraud advice is available online, including from Scamsmart, ActionFraud, CIFAS, TakeFive, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the National Cyber Security Centre.

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.