Protect yourself from Coronavirus scams

If you suspect fraudulent activity related to COVID-19, please call the COVID-19 Fraud Hotline on: 08005875030. All calls are anonymous and free of charge.

Fraudsters may present themselves as trusted organisations or representatives of trusted bodies in an attempt to scam vulnerable people for financial gain.

They may contact people using:

  • Email
  • Text messages
  • Social Media
  • Phone calls
  • In person

They will try to trick you into parting with your money, personal information, or buying goods or services that don’t exist.

If you are approached unexpectedly remember to:

  • Stop: Taking a moment to think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.
  • Challenge: Could it be fake? It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam and report it to Action Fraud.
  • You can also report suspicious texts by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad.
  • The police, council representatives, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account. They will also never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN.
  • Do not click on links or attachments in unexpected or suspicious texts or e mails.
  • Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or e mail address to contact organisations directly.

To keep yourself secure online, ensure you are using the latest software, apps and operating systems on your phones, tables and laptops. Update these regularly or set your devices to automatically update so you don’t have to worry.

Emails offering special insurances to provide cover during the Coronavirus outbreak, selling ‘hard to find products’ or offering free school meals or goodwill payments from HMRC or other organisations should be treated cautiously. Forward suspicious emails claiming to be form HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599. Check HMRC-related phishing, or bogus, emails or text messages against examples published on GOV.UK.

HMRC have published guidance to help businesses recognise when contact from them is genuine, and how to recognise phishing or bogus emails and text messages. 

Government smishing (SMS phishing)

The Government has only sent 1 text message to the public regarding new rules about staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Any others claiming to be from UK Government are false.

Criminals are able to use spoofing technology to send texts and emails impersonating organisations that you know and trust.  If you receive an unexpected text or email, asking for personal or financial details, do not respond. Remember, don’t click on the links or attachments in any texts or e mails instead visit the official website through a known route.

Universal Credit scam

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey:

“We know cyber criminals and fraudsters are despicably attempting to exploit opportunities around Coronavirus.  DWP will never text or email asking for your personal information or bank details. Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of fraud should report it to Action Fraud, and notify DWP, as soon as possible.”

Additional information:

  • For latest information on Universal credit go to Understanding Universal Credit
  • We urge people not to click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never to respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for personal or financial details.
  • We continue to work with Action fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to shut down sites and posts which promote this type of fraud.

Suspicious email reporting service

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a suspicious email reporting service in partnership with the City of London Police.

The service makes it easier than ever to flag suspicious e mails – including those claiming to offer services related to Coronavirus.

Members of the public can send their suspicious emails to report@phising.gov.uk and texts to 60599 and the NCSC’s automated programme will immediately test the validly of the site. Any sites found to be phishing scams will be removed immediately.

As well as taking down malicious sites, the service will support the police by providing live time analysis of reports and identify new patterns in online offending – helping them stop even more offenders in their tracks.

Current scams:

  • Victim receives an email from a trusted source, such as another employee or a supplier, instructing them to make a payment to a different account than usual due to the outbreak. Victim changes the payment details. The new account is actually controlled by the suspect who is impersonating the trusted source.
  • Victim is persuaded by the suspect to make an advanced payment for a rental property. The suspect uses the outbreak as the reason for the victim being unable to view the property. The property does not exist.
  • Suspect advertises a pet online (puppy or kitten) and uses the outbreak as a reason the victim can’t come and see the animal. The suspect sends photos and persuades the victim to make a payment in advance. The suspects will often try to get the victim to pay additional unforeseen costs (insurance, vaccinations) after they’ve made the initial payment but never provide the pet.
  • Suspects are incorporating the Coronavirus pandemic into push payment frauds and using the outbreak to convince victims to speak with the suspect on the phone, saying the banks are closed etc.

If you become aware of any scams or have been targeted, please report them to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime. 

Scams can also be reported to Citizens Advice Consumer Service (CACS) who act as the national reporting line for all Trading Standards related concerns. The staff at CACS are highly trained advisers and share intelligence with Trading Standards. The benefit of reporting to CACS is that the information is added to a national database, searchable by each Trading Standards Authority in the country. 

Further information can be found on Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Against Scams Partnership

Cambridgeshire County Council also has some useful scam prevention resources, such as posters and media packs. Cambridgeshire County Council also have identified the main types of scams to beware of.

Bogus NHS contact-tracing app phishing scam

People are being warned about a scam in which fraudsters use a bogus version of the UK contact-tracing app being trialled on the Isle of Wight. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute said it had evidence of a phishing scam which uses a text message to try to fool people into believing they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus, directing them to a website that asks for their personal details.

Was this web page helpful?