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Don’t fall prey to despicable coronavirus scams

12:00am | & Lifestyle

While most people are united in the fight against Covid-19, some criminals are exploiting the pandemic to try and get their hands on your money and personal information.

To date, Action Fraud (the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre) has received reports from 2,378 victims of Coronavirus-related scams, with the total losses estimated at more than £7 million. However, there are ways to protect yourself from these despicable scams. You should:

  • Watch out for scam messages – your bank, or other official organisations, won’t ask you to share personal information over email or text. If you receive an email that you’re not quite sure about, do not open it or click on any links. Instead forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS):
  • Shopping online – if you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, for example, by checking to see if others have used the site and what their experience was. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as other payment providers may not provide the same protection.
  • Unsolicited calls and browser pop-ups offering tech support – never install any software, or grant remote access to your computer, as a result of a cold call. Remember, legitimate organisations would never contact you out of the blue to ask for financial details such as your PIN or full banking password.

One of the latest scams tries to exploit the new NHS Test and Trace service. Scammers pretending to work for the service contact people out of the blue and try to con them out of cash or personal details, using fear of the virus to coax their victims to co-operate.

This is a particularly loathsome scam since The NHS Test and Trace service plays an important role in the fight against coronavirus and it’s vital the public have confidence and trust in the service. Here’s what you need to know to avoid becoming a victim:

Contact tracers will only call you from the number 0300 013 5000. Anyone who does not wish to talk over the phone can request the NHS Test and Trace service to send an email or text instead, inviting them to log into the web-based service.

All text or emails sent by NHS Test and Trace will ask people to sign into the contact tracing website and will provide you with a unique reference number. You should take the time to type the web address – into your browser, followed by the unique reference number given to you, rather than clicking on any link provided in the message.

The genuine NHS Test and Trace service will never:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate number to speak to them (such as 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 for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone  
  • 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.

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud by clicking here or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you live in Scotland, please report directly to Police Scotland by calling 101.

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