It is inconceivable to think that during a national and international health and economic crisis, that there would be an increase in fraudulent activity. But in a recent report from Action Fraud, the number of Coronavirus-related fraud reports has increased by 400% in March and looks set to increase further.
The majority of scams relate to online shopping frauds where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. This shows how easily fraud can be used to change the actions people take to protect themselves, into actually putting themselves at risk.
There has also been over 200 reports of new coronavirus-themed phishing emails and texts. These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information.
Some of the tactics fraudsters are using in phishing emails include:
- Offering a tax refund from HMRC and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing.
- A research group mimicking the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) providing a list of active infections in their area. By clicking on a link, they are redirected to a credential-stealing page.
- Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates.
- Watch out for scam messages – Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
- Shopping online – If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first. Also, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
- Protect your devices from the latest threats – Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.
This is a good time to remind people that it is important to keep to formal channels such as the www.gov.uk website, particularly when new policies and processes are going to be implemented by HMRC. If you are not sure about a particular message or communication from HMRC, please contact one of your Dafferns client service team and we will do all we can to help.
Keep healthy and (digitally) safe!