Friday, 27 March 2020

Be Alert - increase in Covid-19 Scams


If life wasn't difficult enough scammers are taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis. We're hearing growing reports of a range of new scams you need to watch out for.

Don’t believe bogus text messages saying you’ve been fined for stepping outside during the coronavirus lockdown. It is the latest in a series of scams related to the virus that claims to be from the UK Government. This scam claims that your movements have been monitored through your phone, and that you must pay a fine or face a more severe penalty. Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) advises that ‘Anyone who receives this text should ignore it. It is simply another ruse to steal the payment details of users. 

Bogus message from the UK Government
Other bogus messages currently being circulated are:

HMRC goodwill payment. The MET police are warning of a fake message designed to steal your account details that says ‘As part of the NHS promise to battle the COV-19 virus, HMRC has issued a payment of £258 as a goodwill payment’. 

Free school meals. The Department for Eductaion has issued warnings about a scam email designed to steal your bank details saying: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported.’ 

In all of these cases, do not click or tap any links that these messages ask you to.

So what can you do to protect yourself against scams and misinformation? 

The main things to watch out for in emails and other messages are: 
  • Unsolicited emails and texts: be careful of anything you weren’t expecting that claims to be from an organisation such as a bank, BT, Sky, PayPal, Microsoft, the BBC and other large, trusted organisations. And at the moment, particularly watch out for unsolicited emails claiming to come from health bodies such as the NHS, the WHO and the CDC. 
  • An urgent tone: phishing and smishing messages are designed to scare you into clicking on their links.  
  • Grammar and spelling: the phishing email claiming to come from the WHO is clumsily written and has typos such no spaces after commas. 
  • No name: legitimate emails from services you have accounts with will always address you by name. Phishing emails and smishing texts usually start with ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Customer’. 
  • Fake domains: scammers often set up website addresses that look legitimate in order to trick you. Security researchers Digital Shadows says that more than 1,400 domains linked to the Covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus have been registered in the past three months. While many of those may well be legitimate, others will almost certainly be used to trick anxious consumers into thinking they’re genuine. 
When it comes to claims circulating via social media, there are a couple of things you can check. Snopes is the original fact-checking website: if it’s not true, Snopes has probably written it up. Other fact-checking websites are also worth keeping an eye on: Full Fact is a British website that can be trusted, while Channel 4 News has its own FactCheck website.  

Above all, make sure your computers, mobile phones and tablets are up to date, and for Windows, Macs and Android devices, you should install antivirus software and keep that up to date, too. Antivirus will protect you from threats such as the banking Trojan contained in the Italian emails, and can also warn you if you’re visiting a website that’s been reported for phishing or that contains malware. If you’ve been scammed, report what’s happened to Action Fraud, the UK’s national centre for reporting fraud and cybercrime. 

For further details or advice on coronavirus scams go to either Royal Borough of Greenwich Website or Which? provide a very useful Coronavirus Advice hub

Tina Pugh
ATA Security / Police Liaison
Email: ata.secureteam@gmail.com
Emergency dial 999
Non Emergency dial 101
Greenwich Safer Neighbourhood Team: 020 8284 5494 (not 24 hour)
Email: westgreenwich.snt@met.police.uk


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