phishing scam

Look out for the Covid-19 tricksters

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 phishing@hmrc.go.uk and texts to 60599.

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