Stay safe online – beware of computer-based scammers and fraudsters

April 22 2020

New national figures released by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have reported that more than 2000 computer-based scams have duped unsuspecting victims.

This week they are running a “cyber aware” campaign, which aims to keep people safe on-line.

The scams include fake online shops tricking people into looking for coronavirus-related services; phishing sites encouraging people to give sensitive and private information, including passwords and card details; and encouraging victims to set up payment details in return for the payment of large sums of cash.

The NCSC have co-developed the Suspicious Email Reporting Service with the City of London Police. People are being encouraged to forward dubious emails claiming to offer support related to Covid-19 to the NCSC, who will then test the validity of the site. Any sites found to be phishing scams will be removed immediately.

Please report any dubious emails, including those claiming to offer support related to COVID-19, to report@phishing.gov.uk

Since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, Action Fraud has reported that there have been more than 800 victims across the country, of various frauds and scams – including doorstep theft – who have lost a total of more than £2.1m to coronavirus-related scams.

With most people based at home, many are using the computer to work and shop and opportunist and unscrupulous fraudsters are targeting them.

Online frauds include: 

Items that are purchased and don’t materialise with the virus situation being given as a reason 

Bogus websites, claiming to be government based have been set up but do not have the correct government website address.

Contact being made offering free food parcels and recipients clicking on the link

Offers of medical supplies that do not materialise or are not as advertised 

Advanced payments for rental properties that do not exist (unable to view due to lock-down)

Contact through on-line media stating that the member of public has broken the law on travel and has to pay a £60 fine

Use of the virus outbreak as a reason for changing banking details for payments or for wages redirecting funds into an account controlled by the fraudster 

There are reports of Covid-19 scams specifically targeting the elderly, such as selling pre-paid funerals and power of attorneys. 

In all cases the usual advice applies – be suspicious and cautious and check the identity – call back on a different line.

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is and people should be alerted and on their guard.

The police will never ask for security details or ask members of the public to withdraw cash

If someone is calling at the doorstep – asking for charity donations for the NHS for example – this is unlikely to be genuine, as does not fall into the criteria of essential business.

Check the identity and use tried and tested methods to make donations. 

Similarly, with online appeals – check out the host and validity of any claims that are being made and treat with caution.

Courier fraud remains high and a variation on the theme now involves victims having to have their cards replaced due to the current crisis or the funds being contaminated in their accounts. They are asked to withdraw cash for collection by a police officer or bank official – this will not happen. People approached need to make a separate call to their bank or contact the police to report the approach. 

If people have been scammed and lost money, they should report this to Action Fraud www.actionfraud.police.uk