Coronavirus scams: What to look out for

Some useful tips on avoiding Coronavirus scams

During this unprecedented time, cyber criminals are preying on people’s fear and the general uncertainty around Covid-19.

With most people staying at home, we’re relying more on our phones and digital devices in order to stay connected with each other and get certain tasks done without leaving the house. However, scammers are also making the most of this by tricking people concerned about Covid-19 out of their money and data. Here are some key scams to watch out for.

Apps

In the current climate, scammers are trying to take advantage of people looking to stay up to date by tracking the spread of coronavirus.

There’s been reports of offers of a ‘coronavirus map’ app to track the pandemic but which instead downloads malware into your device. If you receive an invitation to download an app of this kind, do not download it![1]

Offers that come out of the blue

Be wary of phone calls, emails or messages that come out of the blue, even if they claim to be from a reputable or official organisation, like a health organisation, insurance company, the police or a banking services provider.

If you’re feeling unsure, ask for the company’s name and verify their credentials using the FCA’s Financial Services Register or the FCA’s warning list which can help you determine whether you’re dealing with a scam.

These scams can include:

  • Offers that include an upfront fee – usually between £25 and £450 – for a loan or credit that you’ll never get. This is known as loan fee fraud or advance fee fraud and it’s often used by scammers to tap into people’s short term financial concerns
  • Calls from scammers trying to impersonate health officials asking for your personal details, or requesting credit card details
  • Cold calls, emails, texts or WhatsApp messages stating that your banking services provider is in trouble due to the coronavirus outbreak. These messages will urge you transfer your money to a new bank with alternative banking details
  • Calls from someone claiming to be Claims Management Company (CMC), insurance company or your credit card provider. These callers may claim they can help you recover losses by submitting a claim, perhaps for a holiday or event such as a wedding cancelled due to Covid-19. They will ask you to send them some money or your bank details. Do not send them either of these!
  • Cold calls inviting you to invest in industries with heightened demand due to the Covid-19 such as pharmaceuticals, or in “safe havens” such as gold. Using the uncertainty around the stock markets, scammers may also advise you to invest or transfer existing investments into non-standard investments
  • ‘Good cause’ scams. This is where scammers will ask you to invest in philanthropic causes such as the production of sanitiser, personal protection equipment (PPE) or new drugs to treat coronavirus – although these come with the promise of high returns, often these offers are fake and trying to take advantage of people who want to help others
  • Clone firms. These are scammers pretending to represent authorised firms, like insurers or pensions providers, and often can appear to be very genuine. Remember, firms must be authorised by the FCA to sell, promote, or advise on the sale of insurance products. Always make sure you seek financial guidance or advice before changing your pension arrangements or making investments

For more information, check out the FCA’s Scamsmart website and further FCA advice on avoiding coronavirus scams.

Not sure if a message is from Cashplus? Here’s how we’ll contact you and what you can expect.

Emails or adverts online

During this time, it’s likely you’re receiving a lot more emails and communications from companies and brands you’re familiar with.

Take extra care in what you’re clicking on whether it’s emails, adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online.

To help protect yourself, you should:

  • Avoid clicking links or opening emails from senders you don’t already know
  • Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true
  • Take your time to make all the checks you need, even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’

Protect your personal data at all costs

Keeping your personal details safe is key to avoiding scams. Getting this information about you is the first step in allowing fraudsters to steal money or other sensitive data from you.

To keep your details safe, you should:

  • Avoid giving out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details)
  • Be mindful what you post on social media - scammers often trawl accounts to target certain individuals

If you’re unsure about an email, avoid clicking on links or attachments included in the messages and if in doubt the email should be deleted.

And remember, for your security:

  • Never share your password or memorable questions with anyone
  • Create passwords that are difficult to guess and don't use personal information. It pays to use a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols
  • Always use different passwords for your online accounts

 

Not sure? Ask for help

During times like these, vigilance is key for protecting yourself. If you think you’ve fallen for a scam or you’ve seen something that doesn’t seem right, contact the team at Action Fraud or email our cybersecurity experts at [email protected]. Remember, our team are here for you and we’ll do our utmost to support you through this time.

 

To protect yourself from online scams, check out our cybersecurity essentials blog.

Own a business? Know the tell-tale signs of a scams with our cybersecurity guide for businesses.

Online shopping? Check out our latest guide for paying securely and shopping safely online.

 

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattperez/2020/03/16/coronavirus-scams-watch-out-for-these-efforts-to-exploit-the-pandemic/#1900c7d26103

 

This content was created on 3rd April 2020

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