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Public targeted by COVID-19 tracing and video conferencing scams

20 May 2020

CIFAS, THE UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has highlighted the latest Coronavirus scams from the past week, while at the same time warning members of the public to remain vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using in a bid to extract money and information.

The public are being warned of a text scam attempting to fool people into believing they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus. The text simply reads: ‘Someone who came into contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms of COVID-19’ and recommends that the recipient self-isolates and/or is tested. They are urged to click on a link which asks for personal data.

A similar phishing scam is purporting to be from an employee’s management team suggesting that a colleague has tested positive for COVID-19. The e-mail urges recipients to read an attachment under the title ‘Guidelines’ or ‘Next steps’, which when opened installs malicious software.

Cifas is reminding people that if they receive an e-mail or a text unexpectedly, they should never share personal or financial information, and never reply or use the contact details provided. Anyone receiving this type of text or email should delete it immediately.  

Video conferencing scam

With a large number of employees working from home, cyber thieves are taking advantage of the increasing number of people using video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. Users of these platforms are being sent fake notification e-mails containing malicious links, which when clicked on take the user to a fake Microsoft login page designed to steal their details. These details are then used for identity theft.

Fraudsters go to great lengths to make phishing e-mails look legitimate and so it’s easy to fall victim to scams such as these. Anyone receiving an unexpected e-mail claiming to be from their video conference platform provider should delete it or login via the platform’s website. Never use links provided in e-mails or texts.

Council tax refunds

There has been a rise in e-mails purporting to be from the Department for Work and Pensions claiming that people are entitled to a council tax refund. Recipients are asked to click through to a page where they can leave their bank details in order for a refund to be made.

Cifas is reminding people that if they receive a message like this then they should contact their local council using the details on the council’s official website. Never reply to suspicious e-mails or click on links.

Rental property and Amazon scams

Cifas has also been made aware of fake landlords offering properties for rental. Claiming that their properties cannot be viewed owing to the pandemic, these ‘landlords’ ask for an advance payment to secure it. In reality, these properties do not exist.

In addition, Amazon customers have been receiving e-mails inviting them to apply for the Amazon Grant Relief Fund and that they will receive £1,000. The recipient is asked to click on a link which is designed to steal their login and personal details.

Nick Downing, chief intelligence officer at Cifas, said: “Fraudsters are quick to spot new and emerging opportunities to steal people’s money and information. You can never be too vigilant in this current environment. My advice to the public is to always think carefully before handing over their banking or personal details, even if a request does appear to be legitimate. Never be afraid to challenge an e-mail or text if you are unable to confirm the legitimacy of the sender, and never be rushed into a decision. It’s a well-known tactic that only fraudsters will use.”