The COVID-19 pandemic is a fearful time for us all, with the elderly, pregnant and people with underlying health problems being victim of uncertainty as they are at high risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, the confusion for people who are staying at home consequently unsure on how they will source their income and those key workers on the front line who are risking their lives to save others.
Although the incredible community spirit evident in our city has been uplifting for us all during these unprecedented times, criminals are exploiting the pandemic to scam members of the public. They are preying on fear and confusion with email scams, fake products and false demands for donations.
Cases of fraud are likely to rise as the coronavirus spreads with many of us working remotely at home online, and so we would like to alert our clients that criminals are using the internet, telephones and even doorstep calls to target the public. Please be vigilant if you are a target to any of the following:
- Phishing or spam emails: Fraudsters are sending emails pretending to be reputable companies in order to trick individuals into sending personal details, such as their bank details. They may also send an attachment which if opened could lead to them being able to hack into your computer. An example of this, a staff member received recently an email stating her TV license was up for renewal and in order to renew, she was asked to give her bank details. Another example aimed at parents, stating that because schools are closed, they are entitled to free school meals and to receive these by entering their bank details. If you receive any emails you are unsure of, you should hover over the sender’s name to reveal their actual email address. You also will never be asked to send personal information via email from legitimate companies.
- Telephone calls or texts: Our staff direct dial numbers were recently targeted by a fraudster pretending to be Amazon claiming our Prime accounts were up for renewal and requesting bank details. If you receive a call similar to this please hang up the phone. The government have circulated a legitimate text message across the UK informing us of the new rules to stay at home, with a link to more information about those who are exempt. A fraudster in Australia has recreated this by sending a COVID-19 themed text message scamming people into clicking on a link to find out where they can get tested for symptoms in their geographical area. If you are unsure, please do not click on the link. Simply search for information on the internet instead.
- Doorstep calls Investigators warn that there have been several incidents where dodgy doorstep callers are urging members of the public to donate towards research for a Coronavirus vaccine. Although with the new government guidance, our country should not be victim of this, fraudsters may however target you by telephone or email. Please be vigilant.
We urge our clients to be on guard for possible scams and to look out for your vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours during these times. Some guidelines to protect yourselves are as follows:
- Do not click on links in emails or messages or open any attachments from people or organisations you do not know. You can hover over that link to see the actual web address it will take you to and if you click on the sender’s name, it will reveal their actual email address.
- If you receive a link via text message, try searching for relevant key terms in a web browser. This way you can find information without directly clicking on the suspicious link.
- If you are unsure, speak with a friend or family member, or check a message’s legitimacy by contacting the relevant company using contact details sourced from the official company website.