Sadly, Coronavirus scams are emerging, with scammers capitalising on the fallout from the pandemic and using social media to prey on the disruption caused.
Scammers usually want one of three things – to distribute misinformation, to steal personal information for the purpose of identity theft and fraud or to sell fake products.
Here’s how to recognise these scams and avoid falling victim to one.
Types of scam
• Telephone fraud: victims receive calls from criminals pretending to be medical officials, claiming a relative has fallen sick with the virus and then requesting payment for their treatment.
• Phishing: victims receive emails from criminals pretending to be from health authorities, or legitimate companies, using similar looking websites or email addresses.
• Bogus websites: People had been conned into buying protective equipment such as facemasks online which never arrive.
• Inflated prices: Early indications suggest complaints relating to inflated pricing for certain goods in trader premises and online have increased. Consumers should report this to the Citizens Advice hotline in the normal way by calling 0808 2231133.
How to avoid becoming a victim of a scam
• Stop, think, and be sceptical. Did the communication (the call, letter or email) come out of the blue?
• Do not give personal or financial information to someone you do not know, however plausible they might sound. This applies even if they claim to represent a business or organisation you have heard of or where an approach is personalised.
• Genuine businesses or organisations will never telephone you and ask for personal or financial information
• Never make cash payments by money transfer
• If you believe you have been the victim of fraud, alert your bank immediately so the payment can be stopped.
• Use a good spam filter to block out unwanted unsolicited emails.
• Do not click any links in a text message or email. If a friend sends you a text or email with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure it is genuine.
• If you receive a letter, an email or a telephone call that you suspect is bogus, speak to family or friends, Action Fraud or the Citizens Advice consumer service and seek advice.
• Don’t feel under pressure to reveal any information – cybercriminals use emergencies such as coronavirus to scare people into making rash decisions.
• Ask your telecoms provider to set up call screening on your telephone so that you know who is calling your number before you decide to answer it. If the number is withheld it will be displayed as ‘number withheld’
• You can arrange with your telecoms provider to reject anonymous calls to your telephone.
• Check out the source of online shopping; read the reviews and look into the company background.
In all cases, if it looks or sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For further information contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 2231133.