Online scammers are prevalent at the best of times but these people will always take advantage of a crisis if they stand to gain something from it. The uncertainty and fear around coronavirus creates the perfect situation to use a variety of old and new tactics to part people with their data and money. These scams won’t end when coronavirus is eradicated either and so it’s wise to keep them in mind for the future as well as the present. People around the country have already lost considerable amounts of money to these tricks, in this article we will go over them in detail and make sure that you are not one of the unlucky victims.
From the age-old email phishing scams to fake websites selling hand sanitiser or masks, you need to be aware and on your toes to avoid getting caught out. Phishing is when a scammer will send you an email, text or other communication with a fake link that will take you to a dodgy website that steals your details, these websites can even look exactly like the real thing to the untrained eye so it’s important to be extremely careful before clicking links from people you don’t know. These scams are as old as time and will continue to be a threat as long as there are vulnerable people who haven’t been informed.
RED FLAGS TO WATCH OUT FOR!
- A friend is sending you a link out of the blue without chatting first — This could indicate their account has been hacked and is being used to scam!
- Broken English, spelling mistakes and odd turns of phrase – Many scammers are not native English speakers, a legitimate company is not going to send out emails with many spelling errors!
- A company you have an account with does not address you by your name – The legitimate company is going to have your name on record if you have an account with them!
- An employee from a company you have an account with asks you what your password is – The real company will not need you to give them access to your account, they can already do that!
- The person you’re talking to has a very urgent tone and rushes you into making decisions – Legitimate companies will not harass you into making tough decisions on the spot and if they do you shouldn’t deal with them, scammers use this to push you into making a mistake whilst under pressure.
E-mail and Text Scams
One scam that has been going around is victims will receive an email with a fake PDF link, apparently from the World Health Organisation giving the latest advice on coronavirus. Once opened the website asks for your email login and password in order to open the PDF file. This is completely bogus, you would never have to give your email login information to open a link on another website! If you want the latest news simply go to the WHO website directly or by searching for it on Google.
Also, it’s quite unlikely that these organisations would send you an unsolicited email, if you’ve never even been a user of their website then you should instantly have your guard up if you receive communications from them out of the blue.
Fake fines are becoming more prevalent with the introduction of the lockdown and penalties for not following the new rules. A text message is the main way these are perpetrated, victims receive a text supposedly from the government saying that they have been issued with a fine and must send their card details to pay it. Of course in reality the government would not contact you in this way about a fine.
Whatsapp has become a target too, the messaging app has had hackers requesting users give them access to their accounts by sending a request to use your number on another device. The victim then receives a code and the hacker attempts the trick the user into giving them this code. Once they have this they can use your Whatsapp account to message your contacts asking for money pretending to be you.
Think You’re Being Scammed? Here’s What You Need to do!
First off, do not engage with a scammer in any sort of conversation. If they are presenting themselves as a real company over the phone or email then you can Google the website for the company they claim to be from and find their official email address or phone number, double check it against the potential scammer. If you realise that it is a scam then the next thing to do will be to get in touch with Action Fraud so we can stop them from victimizing anyone who doesn’t know the tricks of the trade these scammers use.
Action Fraud is the UK Government’s official fraud busting service. They deal with a variety of different fraud but one of their main areas of concern is online fraud and phishing in particular.
https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report-phishing – Here’s the link to their official website.
If the fraud is being conducted via email then all you need to do is forward the email to [email protected] (in Gmail the option to forward an email is at the bottom of the email itself)
If the fraud is over the phone then you’ll want to create an account with Action Fraud and fill in their online reporting form (https://reporting.actionfraud.police.uk/login). Alternatively call them on 0300 123 2040.
We all need to do our part in helping to stop these scammers and the best way to do that is by staying informed, The Tech Team will strive to have the latest information available to all users, don’t forget to check back for future articles and stay safe, thanks for reading.