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20/03/2020

Coronavirus: how to protect yourself against scams

20/03/2020

Coronavirus: how to protect yourself against scams

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As the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) takes over the news, it’s becoming harder to know what information is correct and what’s incorrect.

Across the UK, there have been many reports of people being affected by virus-related scams – with hoaxers and thieves finding all-new ways to prey on the public, particularly the elderly and the vulnerable.

Those targeted have been receiving malicious emails or have been conned out of money through people offering to do their shopping whilst they self-isolate.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many others out there catching people out, costing people over £800k in one month.

As such, we thought we’d break down the most common virus scams and how you can avoid them.

Emails

Phishing emails are being sent to the public, masquerading as research companies associated with the Centres for Disease Control or the World Health Organisation.

The emails are luring people in with the promise of a list of people infected by the virus in their area via a link. However, when the link is clicked on, victims are taken to a fake website and in some cases a site that asks people to pay in bitcoin.

In other cases, people have received emails claiming to be HMRC with the promise of a tax refund. These look very real and take people to a website that at a glance looks legit.

Victims are then asked to provide their personal details such as their name, address, phone number, and bank card details – enough information for the scammer to get into their bank account or buy products under their name.

To avoid being caught out by this, do not open any suspicious-looking emails and delete them straight away. If you do open them, don’t click on any links within the message and do not open any attachments.

It’s also important to never respond to any of these kinds of emails, especially if they ask for your personal or bank details.

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Online shopping

There has been an increase in scammers using online marketplaces such as eBay or Facebook market to sell highly sought-after items like soap, hand sanitiser, masks and in some cases self-isolation boxes.

The hoax? The items in the posts are either being sold at a very inflated price, or the items don’t exist.

You can protect yourself from this type of scam by check the seller’s profile and reviews to make sure they are genuine. It’s also worth asking a family member or friend to double-check for you before going ahead with your purchase.

If you do make a purchase, it can also be an idea to pay for it using either a credit/debit card that offers you insurance on online purchases.

Theft

In a time of crisis, there will be many people offering to help those considered to be elderly or vulnerable. But there are some people out there who are instead using this as an opportunity to steal from them.

They are doing this by offering to do tasks such as shopping and then pocketing the money for themselves.

The offer of help can be really appealing if you’re stuck indoors, but it’s important to be vigilant. Only take help from those you know, such as friends, family members or neighbours and use online shopping services where possible.

It’s also important to be watchful of people claiming to be from charities knocking at your door. There have been reports of visits from people claiming to be working for the British Red Cross, taking money to ‘do shopping’ and then just not coming back.

We’re not advising that everyone isn’t trustworthy, but if something doesn’t seem right, then it probably isn’t.

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Bank fraud

In a time of financial uncertainty, the level of calls and messages from people claiming to be the bank has increased dramatically.

They will ask for your PIN number or password and, in some cases, may even ask you to move money from your account to a ‘safe’ one for protection. If they’re successful, then they could empty your account or start making purchases using your details.

We cannot stress enough that the bank will never call you or request this information. They will instead contact you via email or in writing and will always use certain measures such as addressing you by your title and last name or placing part of your postcode within the content of the letter/email.

What should I do if I’ve been a victim of a scam/fraud?

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, then it’s important to contact Action Fraud to report this. In cases where a crime if being committed or you feel you are in danger due to a scam; you should also call the police.

It’s also important to contact the bank or provider to take the necessary steps to stop the situation escalating, such as freezing your cards and arranging for new ones to be sent out.

If necessary, you can also be referred to Victim Support, an independent charity that supports people who have been victims of crimes of traumatic events.

If you’ve been affected by one of these scams and it has left your struggling with your finances, contact us today. We can offer free and confidential advice to help you get back on track in a way that suits you; you can call us on 0808 2234 102 or click below to be connected to an adviser.

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