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KCOM warns customers to be vigilant as coronavirus leads to spike in online scams


Recent figures show there have been more than 100 reports to Action Fraud

KCOM has warned customers to be wary as fraudsters try to exploit fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

Scams including ‘phishing’ emails reportedly from HMRC, or from fraudsters claiming to be from health authorities asking for personal information, are among those highlighted by Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber-Crime Reporting Centre.

Other scams include online shopping websites offering fake protective gear or tests for Covid-19 and fake charities asking for donations to help Covid-19 victims.

Recent figures show there have been more than 100 reports to Action Fraud nationally since the start of February 2020, with total losses resulting from them reaching nearly £970,000. 

Some of the tactics being used in phishing emails include:

• Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group linked to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either click on a link which redirects them to a credentials-stealing page or make a donation in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.

• Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates.

• Fraudsters sending information about scam investment schemes and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.

• Fraudsters claiming to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo so may look reasonably genuine and convincing.

Superintendent Sanjay Andersen, Head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said: “Fraudsters will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people. This includes exploiting tragedies and global emergencies.

“The majority of scams we are seeing relate to the online sale of protective items, and items that are in short supply across the country, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We’re advising people not to panic and to think about the purchase they are making. When you’re online shopping it’s important to do your research and look at reviews of the site you are buying from.”

Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “We have already seen fraudsters using the Covid-19 pandemic to scam people looking to buy medical supplies online, sending emails offering fake medical support and targeting people who may be vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home.

“These frauds try to lure you in with offers that look too good to be true, such as high return investments and ‘healthcare opportunities’, or appeals for you to support those who are ill or bogus charities.

“The advice is simple, think very carefully before you hand over your money, and don’t give out your personal details unless you are sure who you are dealing with.

“We are working together across law enforcement, government and the private sector to combat this criminal activity and protect the public. If you think you have been a victim please report to Action Fraud.”

  • For more information or to report a scam if you think you’ve be targeted by coronavirus fraudsters click here or call 0300 123 2040.
  • For advice on how to shop safely online click here

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