It’s a horrible thing, but as soon as there’s a national crisis – like the coronavirus pandemic – you can guarantee some people will take advantage of it. Coronavirus scams are on the rise – so we’ve put together the ones we’ve come across so far to help you avoid the fraudsters.
- Free School Meals
- Tax Refunds
- Automatic payments
- Text Messages with Fines
- How to Spot a Scam Message
- Doorstep Salespeople with Fake Vaccines
- Fake Cleaners
We’re adding to this list as we come across them. If you spot a new scam, remember to send it to us on Facebook or Twitter so we can share it!
People have reported receiving an email that claims families who normally receive free school meals are entitled to support. You’re requested to reply with your bank details to get money for your child’s lunches.
This is incorrect. Unless your school emails you directly, from a recognised email address, do not click any links or reply to the email. If you’re unsure about the authenticity of an email, call your school.
Schools may have some schemes in place for free school meals. However, they will have sent you this information directly – and won’t ever ask for your bank details.
One of the most common coronavirus scams, this one has been seen in both emails and text messages. You’ll get a message apparently from HMRC that says you’re entitled to a rebate because of the coronavirus, with a link to click to fill out your details.
Don’t click it! This could do any number of things – not only give your bank details to fraudsters. Clicking an unknown link can install malicious software on your computer or phone, including sending your passwords and logins for everything to the scammers.
It may well be the case that you’re entitled to a tax rebate if you’ve been laid off work. You can go directly to the Gov.uk tax refund website to find out if you can get a rebate.
If you’re entitled to a tax rebate, HMRC will send you an official letter via post. They’ll never ask you to click a link to fill out your bank details.
A text message scam, there are several variations of this flying around. The sender seems to be listed as COVID or COVID19.
It’ll say something like:
“URGENT: UKGOV has issued a payment of 558 GBP to all residents to battle COVID 19. Tap Here: [link]”
The Government has NOT issued any payments like this! It’s a scam to get your bank details. If you click the link, it looks like a Gov.uk website page, for a local authority. It asks you to fill out your information to get the payment – DON’T DO IT!
The new Government instructions are to only go outside for exercise once a day, to work, or for vital trips like grocery shopping or medical appointments. Scammers jumped on this almost immediately.
You may have received a legitimate text message from UK_GOV this week. It said: “GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT – New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.”
That one really was from the Government.
Scammers are sending messages from GOV_UK (notice how they switched the words around?). The first text copies the legitimate one.
The second text, however, comes a few hours later. It warns you that you’ve left your house three times in a day and will face a £30 automatic fine. The sneaky thing here is that this second text message doesn’t have a link.
It relies on the idea that you’re going to look at the second text, wonder what the guidelines are, and click the link in the FIRST text message. Don’t do it!
There are a few tell-tale signs to look out for to check whether a message is legitimate.
- On your computer, hover your mouse over any links and look in the bottom right of your internet browser. The real link will show in the toolbar. If it doesn’t match the legitimate site you’re expecting to click through to, it’s spam.
- Check the sender of emails. If the email address doesn’t end in the business’ usual web address (such as amazon.co.uk), don’t trust it.
- Look for spelling mistakes. Legitimate companies will put their communications through rigorous checks before they send it out. Strange turns of phrase, grammatical mistakes, and spelling errors are classic signs of a scam.
- If you have clicked on a link (DON’T!) and it takes you to a page asking for your bank details or personal information, close the browser immediately. Do NOT give your information away.
It’s not just cyber criminals taking advantage of the current crisis. Watch out for in-person scams like these…
This one’s probably more worrying: some people are going door-to-door to try and sell you COVID-19 testing kits or vaccines.
If someone knocks on your door and tries to sell you these things, close the door immediately. Call the police. They are fraudsters: there is no home test for coronavirus (yet) nor is there a vaccine.
More worryingly, people acting like this are more often than not trying to work out who lives in the house and whether it’s got valuables in it worth taking. They could be ‘casing the joint’, as it were. They might try to sell you things like hand sanitiser or toilet roll at inflated prices – this is profiteering.
Make sure you tell your older friends, family, and neighbours about this type of scam. Door-to-door salespeople at a time when we’re all being told to stay at home and keep our distance is already dodgy – but trying to sell vaccines and testing kits is downright fraud!
Not yet heard of in the UK – but one from our European friends – is a very scary scam. Apparently, people are knocking on doors telling residents they’re employed by the Government to disinfect the person’s home.
There is no Government scheme – in the UK or any European country – to do this. The people are trying to gain access to resident’s homes or – like the doorstep sellers – assess whether it’s worth returning to burgle the place later on.
If you have anyone knocking on your door that you’re not expecting, don’t open the door if you can. Speak to them through a window or the letterbox, if possible. Ask to see identification. Look at the company they’re claiming to be from – then look up the company details yourself. Use your smartphone or computer if you can, or even call a friend to do so for you.
Get the company’s number. Call them and ask if they have sent people to your home. If they haven’t, tell the person on your doorstep that you know they’re not legitimate and you’re calling the police. If they don’t leave immediately, call the police.
Have you spotted a scam related to the coronavirus? Tell us about it in the comments below!