While the country adjusts to life under the cloud of Covid-19, criminals are using this period of upheaval and uncertainty to their advantage. We wanted to alert you to some of the exploitation tactics being used – particularly against the elderly – and encourage you to be on your guard.
The following are some of the key trends and cases being picked up by fraud-watchers including professional bodies such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (IAEW):
• Individuals impersonating the Government, or HMRC, notifying the victim that they were due a rebate and requesting bank details to enable the payment
• Criminals using scare tactics to pressurise investors to move their investments. They claim the pandemic provides time-critical opportunities. Information around the investment opportunity is often sparse
• Bogus companies are purporting to sell faces masks, hand sanitiser and other items of personal protection equipment, but once the payment is made, the company disappears
• Online fraudsters have sent phishing emails targeting unsuspecting businesses claiming to be from HMRC chief executive Jim Harra
• Fraudsters impersonating High Street banks persuading their victims to transfer funds to a new account following a ‘security breach’ and a change to normal procedures as a result of Covid-19. This type of scam is an example of social engineering whereby the fraudster has researched a particular victim via their social media accounts and other sources
• Bogus emails asking for a donation to tackle Covid-19, normally pretending to be from a charity which is assisting vulnerable people during the outbreak.
There are some basic rules to follow to avoid being scammed, which we offer below.
- Don’t click on a link from an unsolicited email
- Don’t click on website links unless you’re sure of what they link to. If in doubt, find another link to the page you want. Never click on pop-up offers
- If a cold caller rings you, don’t ring any number they ask you to. If you do want to follow up with a phone call, look up the organisation’s number and ring it later. Or just hang up
- If someone comes to your door, don’t buy anything. Take details and check before you follow anything up. Don’t let anyone in unless you want to.
If you receive a suspicious messages, you can report them to the National Cyber Security Centre and forward suspicious e-mails claiming to be from HMRC to firstname.lastname@example.org and texts to 60599.