During this strange and worrying time the majority of people are coming together in a the spirit of hope and unity. We have seen wonderful acts of kindness all over the world and some truly heart-warming examples of generosity and care. However, unfortunately not everyone shares this ethic of caring, and some unscrupulous and heartless individuals are using these hard times to prey on the vulnerable. According to the police statistics, these scammers have so far stolen more than two million pounds using the coronavirus as a means to con and cheat.

The Coronavirus has created an entire array of scams, using the fear of the disease to take advantage of the vulnerable. Many have received emails and SMS messages relating to the pandemic. Many of these emails and texts claim to be sent from the World Health Organization or the Government, which when tailored correctly can look quite convincing. Quite often the objective of these emails or SMS messages are to trick you into giving out your bank details or passwords allowing them to access classified information. It’s not only the vulnerable, scammers are targeting, they are looking for new ways to pose as the companies we trust to gain access to our sensitive information. Which frankly, anybody could fall for.

The scams to look out for:

Netflix Scams

There have been many reports of a scam involving streaming service Netflix. With the increase of people sitting down with their families to watch a film or TV show scammers are looking at this as an opportunity to catch us out. They send an email that appears to be from Netflix, they ask the recipient to update their payment details, the link in the email takes users to a fake website hosted by the scammers, and allows them to see the victim’s details. Be sure never to click the links in the email, if you want to clarify if your payment details are up to date, log on to the Netflix website on a separate tab and check your account details that way.

Nuisance Messages

Text messages have been reported stating fines for people that have stepped outside during the lockdown. The message claims to be from the Government, telling the target that their movement has been monitored through their phone and they must pay a penalty for breaking the lockdown rules.

The department of education has issued warnings about an email designed to steal your bank details. The email is targeting those who qualify for free school meals, it says “As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we will make sure you are supported.”

The police have warned of a fake message set up to steal your bank details – it reads something like this “As part of the NHS promise to battle the COVID-19 virus, HMRC has issued a payment of £258 as a goodwill payment.” Another scam going round requires the victim to give out a verification code to someone. This grants the hacker full access to your WhatsApp messages allowing them to target your contacts for requests of money.

You should always ignore these kind of emails, and SMS messages.

Doorstep Scams

There have also been reports of criminals are taking advantage of the elderly by gaining access to their homes claiming to be health professionals or from the Red Cross, offering to test them for the virus or taking their temperature. Once in the house there has been nasty cases of the criminals stealing from the victim’s home and some cases of the criminals charging the victims for the unofficial examinations.

Criminals are also posing as the NHS or local GP surgeries offering to test for COVID-19, when there is no such scheme being run.

It would seem that criminals are targeting those who are in vulnerable living situations, where they may be elderly and living alone making them an easy target. If you have grandparents or elderly neighbours that live alone, it’s important to warn them not to let anyone into their homes and to contact you immediately.

Fake Advertisements

With the rising demand in hygiene products, criminals are also setting up fake adverts for protective masks and sanitising gel – make sure wherever you purchase these items from are a trusted site.

Keeping Safe Online & On Your Phone

The applications on our phones are constantly asking to track our locations. But how many of them actually needs that information? Don’t be afraid of denying apps your location, its unlikely game apps would need your location so just make sure you’re only sharing this information with apps that really need permission.

Sure for some people it’s important to have lots of friends on Facebook and most of the time we just accept friend requests like they are nothing. However, when you accept friend requests from the unknown you are entitling that person to lots of private information which could help them be able to hack you. Better still, keep social media accounts on private settings to make them even more protected.

Every time you make a download you are at risk of downloading a malicious virus, putting your computer and its documents at risk. Be sure to use antivirus material to keep your computer protected.

Quite often scammers want you to take action right away and will try and rush you into giving them the information they want. Slow them down, ask them questions and make sure they are who they claim to be.

Links in emails can easily be made to look official, leading you to think you are going to a site you aren’t. Always hover over a link with your cursor to confirm the true landing page of the link.

How to spot a scam and what to do?

- Be extremely careful when receiving text messages from a trusted organisation. It is unlikely these companies would ever ask you for bank details or log-in information over the phone or SMS. Always try and clarify the emails are from the official company.

- An urgent tone, always be wary of an individual using a tone of urgency when trying to get your information.

- Grammar and spelling mistakes are often prominent in scam emails and messages. If the sentences are poorly put together it’s unlikely it has been sent from a trusted organisation.

- Check with a friend or family. If you are not quite sure about a certain message, ask someone you trust to clarify for you. They may already be aware of the scam or may pick up on something you didn’t.

- If you are concerned something is a scam, the chances are, it is. Trust your gut feeling and ignore it.

Its saddening that not everyone can come together during these times and look out for one another rather than taking it as an opportunity to prey on the vulnerable. We hope this blog post helps you from spotting the malicious scams in the future. You can keep an eye on the current scams surrounding COVID-19 on www.reassura.com