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Don’t get caught in a Coronavirus scam

From doorstepping to nuisance messages, scammers are exploiting the Coronavirus (Covid-19).

Reports of Coronavirus-related scams have been rife for weeks now. According to Action Fraud, £800,000 has been lost to coronavirus scams since February this year. Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to get their hands on cash and are preying on people’s vulnerabilities during this unsettling time.

Fraudsters are using text messages, social media posts, online advertisements, phone calls and even doorstepping to defraud their unsuspecting victims.

To help you keep an eye out for Coronavirus scams, we’ve pulled together details on some which are currently circulating and provide details of what to do if you think you have fallen victim. As new scams emerge, we will be updating this page so keep checking back!

Important: If you think you are a victim of a scam, report it to Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040. If this included card or bank account details, talk to your bank immediately.

Fake council tax reduction scam email

An email scam, claiming to offer a council tax reduction is hitting inboxes during the lockdown. The phoney email, clad in UK Government branding, and signed off from ‘The Government Digital Service Team’, offers a supposed council tax reduction. The email quotes the annual reduction amount and asks the recipient to click a link to “claim your council tax reduction now”.

The link leads to a convincing page, also in UK government branding, asking for personal details including name, address and banking details. It is yet another ‘phishing scam’ attempting to steal the details of unsuspecting members of the public.

To report instances of scam emails, or other suspected scam messages, go to the Action Fraud website.

Bogus District Nurse in Halton

There have been reports of a bogus district nurse operating in Halton. The nurse arrived at a resident’s home in Widnes, stating they were there to check on the residents health, but firstly they wanted to use the residents bathroom. After appearing from the bathroom, the nurse stated they did not need to check the resident’s health and left the property. It is highly likely this was an attempted burglary.

Residents should be wary of carers/nurses turning up for non-scheduled visits and should always check the carers/nurses ID or ring the care provider, if they have any concerns about their authenticity.

NHS ‘test and trace’ scam

The Test and Trace system is part of the government’s efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, with contact tracers getting in touch with those who have had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

However, a number of fraudsters are using this to their advantage and posing as contact tracers to trick people into parting with their personal information.

The following information has been provided so you know if you are genuinely being contacted by the NHS Test and Trace Contact service:

  • If the NHS Test and Trace service contacts you, the service will use text messages, email or phone.
  • All texts or emails will ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website.
  • If NHS Test and Trace calls you by phone, the service will be using a single phone number: 0300 013 5000.
  • All information you provide to the NHS Test and Trace service is held in strict confidence and will only be kept and used in line with the Data Protection Act 2018.

Contact tracers will:

  • call you from 0300 013 5000
  • send you text messages from ‘NHS’
  • ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website
  • ask for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating
  • ask about the coronavirus symptoms you have been experiencing
  • ask you to provide the name, telephone number and/or email address of anyone you have had close contact with in the two days prior to your symptoms starting
  • ask if anyone you have been in contact with is under 18 or lives outside of England

Contact tracers will never:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to us (for example, those starting 09 or 087)
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind
  • ask for any details about your bank account
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone
  • disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
  • provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS

They will ask you:

  • if you have family members or other household members living with you. In line with the medical advice they must remain in self-isolation for the rest of the 14-day period from when your symptoms began
  • if you have had any close contact with anyone other than members of your household. We are interested in in the 48 hours before you developed symptoms and the time since you developed symptoms. Close contact means:
    – having face-to-face contact with someone (less than a metre away)
    – spending more than 15 minutes within two metres of someone
    – travelling in a car or other small vehicle with someone (even on a short journey) or close to them on a plane
  • if you work in – or have recently visited – a setting with other people (for example, a GP surgery, a school or a workplace)

They will ask you to provide, where possible, the names and contact details (for example, email address, telephone number) for the people you have had close contact with. As with your own details these will be held in strict confidence and will be kept and used only in line with data protection laws.

Here is a useful guide issued by the government, on how it works and what to expect if you are contacted:

TV Licence scam email

There has been an increase in TV licence scams since the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions have been in place. The likely reason for this is that scammers realise residents are relying on their TV’s for entertainment/news more than they were before the lockdown and are trying to take advantage of the situation.

Be cautious about any emails from TV Licensing that ask you to update your personal or banking details. There are numerous reports of people receiving scams. 

These emails are a phishing scam, a common type of email fraud where scammers will send bogus emails pretending to be from a respectable organisation. This is to trick you into clicking through to a fake website where you will enter your personal details.

For this scam, the emails are disguised to look like they have been sent by the TV Licensing organisation.

They may say you’re entitled to a refund for an overpayment or warn that your licence is about to expire. They will then ask you to respond by entering your bank details on a fake website.

For more information on email security and scam advice visit TV licensing.

Funeral Director Scam

A cruel scammer tried to fleece a bereaved family by pretending to be their funeral director.

A person claiming to be from a Council’s Bereavement Service has called the family of someone who has recently deceased stating that their payment for the Funeral Director had been declined and that they would need to make another payment over the phone (using their debit/credit card). The caller claimed if the payment was not made they would cancel the funeral.

Sadly, scammers will do anything to get your money and this includes doing things that the rest of society consider morally appalling.

This scam has not been reported to have happened in Halton, but please be vigilant.

HMRC Scams

Universal Credit Coronavirus Scams

Received a call from Universal Credit after making a claim online?

To ensure it’s genuine, you can check your online journal as there will be a message saying someone be calling you.

If you don’t have a journal message ask the caller to add one to prove who they are.

If they are not able to do this, please hang up as they may be trying to scam you!

SMS fine for leaving home more than once during the lockdown

Scam text messages are being sent telling people they are being given a fine because they have been out of the house “more than once”.

The message claims to have been sent by GOV.UK, making them even more realistic.

Some text messages state fines could increase to £5,000 and/or arrest and payment will be taken automatically.

Do not reply to the SMS, call the phone number listed or click the link. An example of the scam text message can be seen on the right.

HMRC Imposters

People are falling victim to a scam perpetrated by individuals falsely claiming to be from HMRC. The scam has now expanded from text and email to telephone calls as the Coronavirus lockdown continues.

The HMRC-branded scam texts claimed that the government is offering lump-sum payments “as part of its promise to battle Covid-19.” Each text specified a particular sum and asks the recipient to tap the link to a bogus website which requests payment details from the recipient. It is simply a means for criminals to gain access to bank accounts.

Recently, this scam theme has expanded from text and emails to telephone calls from bogus civil servants.

HMRC has advised the public that all of these messages and phone calls are fake, with the government department advising the public that it will, “never text, email or phone to ask for bank details, PIN or passwords.”

Scam HMRC text messages

Scam HMRC text messages currently being circulated. The text message below is a scam, which wants you to click the link embedded within it.

The link will likely contain at least of one of three things:

  • Malware that may harm your device
  • Ransomware which locks your device and the scammer will then request a payment to release it
  • Demand/request for you to supply personal details or bank account information

HMRC never send notifications of a tax rebate or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email or text message. Forward suspicious text messages to 60599 (Text messages will be charged at your network rate).

Flyers posted through doors offering ‘Stay safe packs’ 

Flyers that have been posted through people’s doors in Widnes, which offer packs of face masks, surgical masks, gloves and hand sanitiser.

We have spoken to the trader concerned who has stated that he does not have any of these items in stock or available for delivery. The business has ceased promoting the products and taking any orders.

We are concerned about anyone selling personal protective equipment (PPE) in this manner during a global pandemic. As highlighted in the press, there is a lack of PPE in the country and PPE sold door-to-door will not necessarily meet the high standards required under UK law. Users of substandard PPE will be unaware that the product is not providing the expected protection, thus increasing their risk of contracting the virus.

If you receive a flyer, text, email or phone call from somebody you don’t know who is offering PPE, hand sanitiser, face masks or anything else they claim protects you from Covid-19, we strongly advise you ignore.

Netflix scam takes advantage of Coronavirus lockdown

The Coronavirus pandemic lockdown has led to a surge in viewership of online video streaming services. With millions of more people staying at home, Netflix has seen a rise of 32% in paid subscriptions since mid-March according to billing platform Recurly. The radical shift in consumer activity has led to scammers attempting to take advantage of the situation.

Trading Standards has received evidence of bogus emails in Netflix branding which asks recipients to update their payment details. The email advises the recipient to click a link, which leads to a fake payment page which takes the credit card details of the target.

If you received an email (see example) or text (SMS) requesting information like your username, password, or payment method that looks like it came from Netflix, it probably did not.

Do not click any of the links contained in these emails.

For more information, tips to identify and handle a suspicious email or text and keep your account safe, visit Netflix’s dedicated help centre.

Scam Coronavirus Phone Calls

People are receiving scam phone calls about the Coronavirus. The caller states you should stay in your home and then says they are going to send you two masks, hand gels and gloves. The caller then asks for your address and your bank details, as there is a charge of £29!

This is a scam, never give out your bank details or address to someone who has cold-called you.

Council Tax Reduction Scam

An email scam currently circulating regarding Council tax reductions. The email claims it is from the UK Government, it is not, it is a scam.

The email states you are due hundreds of pound in a rebate and they will transfer the money to your credit or debit card. The email goes on to further state you just need to click a link in the email to begin the process.

This is a blatant attempt to try and get your debit/credit card details and also have you access a website (via the link) which could also be harmful to your computer.

Simply ignore and delete this email.

Covid-19 Free School Meals Scam

Families who receive free school meals have been targeted by a scam asking them to pass over their bank detais.

Parents were sent an email reading:

‘As schools will be closed, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’.

The government issued a warning urging people not to fall for it.

Guidance from the Department of Education says: ‘We can confirm that this is a scam email and is not official. We urge parents that if you receive any emails like this, please do not respond, and delete it immediately.’

Furthermore, should you have any queries relating to free school meals or other educational Covid-19 related matters then please contact the Department for Education direct via their helpline on 0800 046 8687.

If you’ve been scammed, there are organisations you should report the scam to.

Don’t feel embarrassed about reporting a scam – scammers are clever and scams can happen to anyone.

Reporting a scam helps track down and stop scammers. This prevents other people from being scammed.

Useful links:

Coronavirus: Rent and money worries help and support

Employed and ill or affected by Coronavirus?

Coronavirus: Helping you get access to food and supplies

Social Distancing – Are you doing it?


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