During the summer lockdown over £2 million of people's money was lost to criminals due to Coronavirus-related fraud. We look at how you can protect yourself from these scams.
Unfortunately, there are scammers who have taken this moment of national crisis and are using it to their advantage, with fraudsters praying on more vulnerable members of the community for their own gain. Many scammers have found an opportunity to exploit real government Covid-19 initiatives, put in place to protect our health and finances, to con people out of their money.
The impact of Covid-19 scams
1 in 3 Brits were targeted during the 2020 summer lockdown, with scammers focusing on financial hardships and the uncertainty around testing for, and protecting against, Covid-19 (also known as the Coronavirus). In fact, an estimated £2million was lost last year due to Covid-19 related criminal activity.
This year fraudsters have used the roll out of the new vaccine to their advantage, and there’s been reports of fake NHS texts to vulnerable members of the community, and even people administering fake vaccines. The official guidance from the NHS and Government is that you’ll never have to pay for the vaccine, and there’s no need to get in touch with your GP to request the vaccine. You’ll be contacted directly by your GP or healthcare provider (most likely via letter or phone) when you’re able to be vaccinated. You will never be asked to provide your bank details and a healthcare professional will only visit you at your home if an appointment has been pre-arranged.
There’s lots that can be done to protect yourself and your loved ones, as these scams often follow similar patterns and can be very convincing. By keeping a few simple tips in mind you’ll be able to spot a scam.
Protecting yourself from Covid-19 scams
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Keep a healthy dose of scepticism if you’re approached (in person or online) with an offer that exceeds your expectations.
- Never give out personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) without verifying that the person requesting the details is legitimate. You can use the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Register to see if who you’re dealing with is authorised.
- Be extra vigilant if you’ve received an unsolicited message about a product or service, and if they’ve asked for money or personal details up front. Your healthcare provider may sometimes text or email you, but will never ask you for money or personal details.
- Look out for poor spelling and grammar. Real companies and organisations have people who check and double check these kind of things before they’re sent to customers. It’s very unlikely that a legitimate source would send you a letter, text or email with these kinds of errors.
- Set up your computer with anti-virus software. Action Fraud recommend a free solution called Quad9, which can help to protect your computer against malicious websites and email fraud. Find out more on the Action Fraud website.
- Don’t rush your decision making. Scammers often try to put pressure on you to make quick decisions. Always take your time to check things out before going ahead.