Coronavirus scammers fool victims out of £970,000 by claiming to be from tax office or World Health Organisation as warnings of cons soar 400 per cent
- Police have warned the public to be wary of coronavirus scams after a spike in cases were revealed by Action Fraud on Friday
- £970,000 has been lost due to fraudsters taking advantage of the public
- Most cases related to online shopping, where orders of hand sanitizer, face masks and other products never arrived
- Phishing emails also targeted victims with over 200 reports of fraudsters claiming to be from the World Health Organisation as well as HMRC
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Police have warned the British public to be wary of coronavirus scammers after figures revealed £970,000 has been lost as a result of fraudsters claiming to be from the World Health Organisation or HMRC.
Figures from Action Fraud on Friday revealed that there have been 105 reported cases of fraud since February 1 and cases have grown more frequent in the past few days, with 38 cases reported from March 14 to March 18 alone.
The majority of reports relate to online shopping scams, after people reported that their orders of face masks, hand sanitizers and other products never arrived.
The police body also revealed that over 200 reports were in relation to phishing emails about the coronavirus. These emails attempt to lure people into opening attachments which could allow fraudsters to steal people’s personal information.
Figures from Action Fraud have revealed that £970,000 has been scammed out of the British public since February 1 2020 with fraudsters using the coronavirus crisis to their advantage
– Orders of face masks, hand sanitizers and other products are made to a fraudulent website but never arrive
– Fraudsters claim to be from the World Health Organisation or HMRC in order to fool victims out of their money.
– One method sees fraudsters claim to have information relating to Covid-19 and victims are redirected to information-stealing pages.
– Another method involves scammers advising victims to take advantage of the crisis by investing in fraudulent schemes.
Fraudsters frequently pose as people from the WHO and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and claim that they can provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area.
In order to access that information, the victim must either click a link which takes them to a credential-stealing page, or they have to make a donation to a Bitcoin account.
Other methods include fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice with the intention to encourage victims to take financial advantage of the coronavirus crisis.
The scammers also claim to be from HMRC offering a tax refund before redirecting victims to a website that harvests personal and financial details. These emails include the HMRC logo to add to their authenticity.
Superintendent Sanjay Andersen, Head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said: ‘Fraudsters will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people. This includes exploiting tragedies and global emergencies.
‘The majority of scams we are seeing relate to the online sale of protective items, and items that are in short supply across the country, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Online shopping was heavily targeted while emails from fraudsters claiming to be from the World Health Organisation and HMRC also fooled members of the public
Scammers would offer hand sanitizer and face masks on fake websites with victims never receiving their orders as fraudsters capitalise on the fear of the general public
‘We’re advising people not to panic and to think about the purchase they are making. When you’re online shopping it’s important to do your research and look at reviews of the site you are buying from.’
Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: ‘We have already seen fraudsters using the COVID-19 pandemic to scam people looking to buy medical supplies online, sending emails offering fake medical support and targeting people who may be vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home.
‘The advice is simple, think very carefully before you hand over your money, and don’t give out your personal details unless you are sure who you are dealing with.’
Action Fraud has provided the public with tips on how to avoid being scammed by fraudsters
Action Fraud has given the public advice as to how to avoid being scammed by fraudsters during the coronavirus crisis:
1. Watch out for scam messages
Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
2. Shopping online
If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase.
If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
3. Protect your devices from the latest threats
Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.
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