Fraudsters capitalise on COVID-19 panic

Nationwide is promoting the #FraudAwareness campaign on Twitter as analysts revealed that criminals are escalating activity that targets the vulnerable.

More than 500 scams relating to coronavirus and over 2,000 phishing attempts by scammers taking advantage of fears over the pandemic have been reported to UK investigators, figures by The Guardian show.

Officials at the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) are in the porcess of accessing the latest scams, including one that involves criminals asking for donations to help the NHS fight COVID-19.

50 scams daily

Since the virus spread to the UK, intelligence analysts have monitored a sharp increase in criminals using a range of scams. The reports sent to Action Fraud, are then forwarded to the NFIB, a section overseen by the City of London Police. An earlier report from April 4, reveals that there have been 509 scams with total losses among victims of £1.6m.

As many as 50 scams are being reported daily, 41 of those relating to a recent scam involving an email asking recipients for donations to buy “medical preparations and supplies” for the NHS to help cope with the pressure of the outbreak.

Other scams claiming to be official messages from the government included text messages telling people they have been fined £250 for ignoring lockdown guidelines by leaving their home more than once.

Recent reports show that the number of coronavirus related phishing attempts stands at 2,192 (as of April 4). Attempts include an email misleading people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to criminals stealing personal information like banking details, email logins and passwords.

Advice available

Commander Karen Baxter, the national coordinator of economic crime at the City of London Police, said: “Criminals will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people. This includes exploiting tragedies and global emergencies.

“As more people stay indoors and work from computers and laptops at home, there is more opportunity for criminals to try and trick people into parting with their money at a time when they are anxious and uncertain about the future.”

Police have issued fraud prevention advice against coronavirus related scams to counter the rising fraudulent activity.

Some other scams to watch out for are those attempting to exploit the economic downturn by contacting individuals who are out of work and offering them jobs as key workers.

On the employment scams, a spokesperson from Action Fraud had this to say: “People are obviously looking for jobs at the moment and criminals are using COVID-19 as a hook for employment, offering key worker positions as long as they pay an advance fee for vetting or background checks.”

The majority of incidents reported as of late are online shopping scams where people have ordered and paid for face masks, hand sanitiser or testing kits which never arrive.

Coronavirus related scams were first reported on 9 February, and by the end of the month, a further 20 were reported.

You can report instances of fraud on the Action Fraud site here.

(image source: courtesy of Pexels)

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