10 coronavirus scams to watch out for

Banking trade body UK Finance has issued a list of ten coronavirus-related scams people should be wary of along with advice on how to spot them.

The organisation said fraudsters are using "sophisticated methods to callously exploit people's financial concerns" during a time of crisis.

Financial support scams

These scams are designed to tap into the complexity and confusion around the various support schemes announced by the Government from March onward.

  • Fake Government emails - typically offering business grants of up to £7,500, containing links to so-called ‘phishing' websites designed to steal personal and financial details.
  • ‘COVID-19 relief fund' emails - inviting people to complete a form and hand over personal information in exchange for non-existent handouts.
  • Council tax reduction emails - containing links to fake government websites offering lower bills and, again, designed to steal bank details and other personal data.
  • Universal Credit assistance - with many claiming for the first time, fraudsters are offering to help with applications in exchange for an advance payment.

Lockdown scams

Arguably more subtle, these scams mimic real discounts and offers issued by companies at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

  • ‘Free TV licence for six months' - lured by the claim that the TV licensing authority is offering refunds, consumers are asked to ‘update' their direct debit details on a fake website.
  • TV subscription service account update - Netflix and similar services saw a surge in users worldwide during the first part of this year. In this scam, a fake email threatens to withdraw access to streaming TV unless account details are entered online.
  • Fake social media profiles - taking advantage of the isolation and loneliness many felt during lockdown, criminals steal the identities of real people to chat with people and manipulate into making money transfers or buying them expensive gifts.
  • Fake investment adverts - preying on the appeal of making fast, easy money, ads on websites or social media encourage people to invest in fake cryptocurrencies and other imaginary schemes to profit from the global crisis. In fact, this is also just a trick to get hold of your cash and/or your bank details.

Health scams

These are perhaps the most sinister of all, taking advantage of a very real medical emergency and the understandable anxieties around it.

  • NHS track and trace phishing emails - these claim the recipient may have COVID-19 and contain a link to a fake website which will steal personal and financial details, or infect their phone or computer with malware.
  • Fake adverts for non-existent COVID-19 products - at the height of shortages, many were fooled into handing over money for hand sanitiser and face masks which simply never arrived.

To avoid being the victim of scams like those listed above, you should always check that the website address is inconsistent with that of the legitimate organisation - although be aware this can be ‘spoofed'.

Be wary of phone calls, texts or emails asking for financial information. It's very unlikely any public body will ever do this.

Don't let yourself be pressured by urgent requests for personal information, or demands for payment. There's always time to reflect, or to talk to someone you trust.

If something seems too good to be true, such as heavy discounts on desirable products or promises of sky-high returns, that's usually a danger sign.

And, finally, look out for spelling mistakes or inconsistencies in the story. Scammers may be increasingly sophisticated but, fortunately, they remain prone to typos and carelessness.

Talk to us about your finances.