Scams (Coronavirus - COVID-19)

Criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends.

There have been many reports nationally of scams connected to coronavirus, with many different organisations offering advice on how to spot potential scammers and what to do.

National Trading Standards have identified a number of Covid-19 related scams:

Vaccine scams

  • Criminals contacting people, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, to tell them they will be arriving at their home to give them a vaccine.
  • Due to the roll of out the new vaccine, many people are anticipating contact from health care professionals about the opportunity and turn to receive their dose. Criminals are seeing this as an opportunity to lure people into clicking links on fraudulent text messages and emails. The government has provided more information as well as an example fraudulent text message that may be sent

Doorstep crime

  • Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
  • Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Online scams

  • Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
  • Fake online resources such as false coronavirus maps that deliver malware that can steal your sensitive data.
  • Fake council tax reduction refund emails to get your bank details. The email pretends to be from the official GOV.UK website.

Refund scams

  • Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.

Counterfeit goods

  • Fake sanitisers, face masks and swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.

Telephone scams

  • As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.

Donation scams

  • There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Loan sharks

  • Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence.

National Crime Agency advice - Stop-Challenge-Protect

The National Crime Agency is asking people to consider the following if they think they are being scammed:

Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

Challenge: Could it be fake? It is ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Your bank or the police will never ask you to transfer money or move it to a safe account. Always remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Other guidance on Coronavirus scams

Combatting fake news

Specialist units across government are working at pace to combat false and misleading narratives about coronavirus, ensuring the public has the right information to protect themselves and save lives.

To help the public spot false information the government is running the SHARE checklist and Don’t Feed The Beast campaign here. This gives the public five easy steps to follow to identify whether information may be misleading:

  • Source - make sure information comes from a trusted source.
  • Headline - always read beyond the headline.
  • Analyse - check the facts.
  • Retouched - does the image or video look as though it has been doctored?
  • Error - look out for bad grammar and spelling.