Coronavirus: How to Avoid Scams…
Unfortunately, whilst many of us are concerning ourselves with helping others and getting through this difficult time, the Covid-19 pandemic has become a perfect playground for scammers. As of Friday 20 March, City of London Police reported a 400% increase in scams as a result of coronavirus-related fraud. The majority of reports relate to online shopping, specifically protective facemasks and hand sanitiser, which have been ordered and paid for but never arrived.
There has also been a vast increase in Phishing emails and SMS messages. These attempt to trick users into giving out personnel information including bank and log-on details. Some of the widespread messages seen include the following:
- Emails claiming to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO). These either show a link which claims to offer advice on how to stay safe, or a list of active infections in the reader’s area. Once these links are clicked they often ask you to enter your email address and password or even to make a donation to receive the information.
- Fraudulent messages pretending to be HMRC offering tax refunds, where readers are directed to a fake website and asked to input personal and financial details
- Scammers sending investment scheme and trading advice and encouraging readers to invest funds and take advantage of the current climate
These messages often look authentic and include logos and even correct fonts, making them seem reasonable and convincing.
Reducing the risks
Be careful of messages you weren’t expecting even if they appear to come from trusted organisations. The tone of phishing emails is often urgent and grammar and spelling sometimes leave a lot to be desired. They are often not addressed to you by name. 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. Use the contact details you already have for organisations and contact them directly.
Carry out research before making a purchase from a new company or person if you do not know them. Use online reviews and ask friends and family. Always look at independent reviews, not reviews on the website you are buying from. Buying with a credit card may also offer more protection than buying with a debit card.
Always install the latest anti-virus software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.