Fraud and scams

The coronavirus pandemic has given criminals a massive opportunity to prey on worried and vulnerable people. By exploiting their financial concerns because of coronavirus, criminals are asking people for personal and financial information. Scammers are becoming ever more sophisticated at impersonating other organisations. Sadly, there is no guarantee that the friendly person on the telephone really is a representative of a bank or financial institution. So what can you do to protect yourself against fraud and scams?

What are the most common frauds and scams?

These are the ten scams to be on the lookout for and how to spot them (taken from the Take Five website)

British notes and coins Covid-19 financial support scams

  • Criminals have sent fake government emails designed to look like they are from government departments; these are offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information from victims
  • Fraudsters have also been sending scam emails which offer access to ‘Covid-19 relief funds’. They encourage victims to fill in a form with their personal information
  • Criminals have been targeting people with official-looking emails offering a ‘council tax reduction’. These emails use government branding. They contain links which lead to a fake government website which is used to access personal and financial information
  • Fraudsters are also preying on benefit recipients, offering to help apply for Universal Credit. They then take some of the payment as an advance for their “services”

Health scams

  • One of the most shocking scams that has appeared during the pandemic has involved using the NHS Test and Trace service. Criminals are preying on an anxious public. They are sending phishing emails and links claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. These lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.
  • Victims are also being targeted by fake adverts for Covid-related products such as hand sanitizer and face masks which do not exist.
  • Now that the COVID 19 vaccines have become available, criminals have been sending texts and emails attempting to lure people to ‘apply’ for the COVID-19 vaccine. This is just another way of getting personal and financial details from you. Remember – the COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge and there is no way to jump the queue by paying for a ‘priority slot’. For more information on how to spot this scam, click here.
  • Another variant of the vaccine scam sees emails sent to people asking whether they do or do not want the vaccine. Either choice will take you to a site where you will be requested to enter personal / financial data such as bank account details, card numbers, Driving licence ID. This is on the pretext that the site is checking your validity. The site is doing exactly the opposite. It is taking your details so they can be used for in more direct ‘spear phishing’ or to use the details for ID Theft and also financial fraud.

Royal Mail scams

The Police are reporting that fake Royal Mail notifications are being sent out via email and text. The scam involves an email or a text which claims Royal Mail has tried to deliver a parcel. It then asks you to pay a fee to arrange for re-delivery. The style of the emails and texts makes the scam appear legitimate. You will be directed to an official-looking page where you will be asked to give away your bank details. Do not click on the link. Forward the email to [email protected] (this reporting service is run by the National Cyber Security Centre and aims to take down fake websites). If you receive a text, forward it to 7726. Remember:

  • Royal Mail will never ask you to pay a re-delivery fee. If an email asks you to do so, it is a scam
  • You should never input your bank or card information after following a link on any email claiming to be from the Royal Mail. It will result in your card details being stolen by criminals.
  • If you have reason to believe that you may have been tricked, it is essential that you contact your bank and cancel your card at once. Additionally check your statements for any signs of unauthorised transactions.

Lockdown scams

  • Criminals are sending fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing. These tell people they are eligible for six months of free TV license because of the coronavirus pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit. They are then asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website used to steal personal and financial information.
  • The use of online TV subscription services has grown during the lockdown. Customers have been targeted by criminals sending convincing emails asking them to update their payment details. Clicking on a link in a fraudulent leads to the theft of credit card information.
  • Fraudsters are also exploiting those using online dating websites. Scammers create fake profiles on social media sites and manipulate victims into handing over their money. Often criminals will use the identities of real people to strike up relationships with their targets.
  • Criminals are using social media websites to advertise fake investment opportunities. They encourage victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms. They encourage unsuspecting victims to put money into fake investment companies using fake websites.

The banking and finance sector is working with the government and law enforcement to help identify scams and prevent people becoming victims of fraud. The industry is also encouraging everyone to remain vigilant. It  also urges everyone to follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, and to Stop, Challenge and Protect when they receive any messages out of the blue:

Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe

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

How to spot a scam

In order to spot a COVID-19 scam, people should be on high alert if:

  • The website address is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation
  • The phone call, text or emails asks for financial information such as PIN numbers or passwords
  • You receive a call or email out of the blue with an urgent request for your personal or financial information
  • You receive a call or email out of the blue with an urgent request for an immediate payment
  • Someone offers you a heavily discounted or considerably cheaper product compared to the original price
  • There are spelling and grammar mistakes in the email you receive
  • The caller changes their story during a conversation

Remember that your bank will never ask you to:

  • Share your account details like user ID, password and memorable information
  • Tell them your Personal Security Number (PSN) for Telephone Banking
  • Tell them your PIN code, expiry date, CVV number (the last 3 digits of the security code on the back of your card)
  • Move money to a so-called secure, safe or holding account
  • Move your money or ask you to transfer funds to a new sort code and account number

What to do if you fall victim to a fraud or scam

Nat West: If you bank with NatWest and you need to get in touch with the fraud team, click here or call NatWest on 03457 888 444 (24 hours, 7 days a week)

Lloyds Bank: If you bank with Lloyds Bank and you need to get in touch with the fraud team, click here or call Lloyds Bank on 0800 917 7017

HSBC: If you bank with HSBC and you need to get in touch with the fraud team, click here or call them on 03456 002 290.

Barclays: If you bank with Barclays and you need to get in touch with the fraud team click here

Santander: If you bank with Santander and you need to get in touch with the fraud team click here or call them on 0800 9 123 123

If you think you have been a victim of fraud please report it to Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040.