Fraudsters will seize opportunities for crime during any crisis. COVID-19 is proving no exception, as the UK’s test and trace scheme gets underway.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, criminals have been using the unprecedented situation as cover for scams to defraud the public.
In a previous blog post(1) we noted that crime statistics had fallen dramatically since lockdown shut businesses and left the streets deserted.
However, lockdown has created a boom in the phone and online phishing tricks that fraudsters use to target the public. At least 2,378 victims have lost £7m from coronavirus-related scams, as of 12 June, according to Action Fraud, a reporting body for scams in the UK(2).
In May the government launched the NHS test and trace scheme, used to tell anyone who has had close contact with a COVID-19 patient that they should self-isolate for a fortnight to stop the virus spreading.
As anticipated, scammers have already begun to take advantage of this contact tracing scheme.
What have we seen?
A variety of SMS texting scams have been circulating, sent to people’s mobile phones with links to false websites which can then capture sensitive details for fraudsters to exploit. Here is one such example of a scam text message with phishing link.
“Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested. More information at [Link to fake government site].” (3)
Another scam involves a phone call, in which the caller refuses to disclose who the householder has been in contact with but asks them to confirm their address so that a testing kit can be sent to them.(4)
What’s the advice?
NHS England advises that any telephone call or text will come from one verified NHS number: 0300 013 5000.
The genuine scheme will provide a unique ID number which you can use on the NHS Test and Trace website.
There is also this handy guide, published by consumer magazine Which?, on how to tell if the contact tracing message you receive is fake or genuine. (8)
Published Date: 2nd July 2020
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