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Coronavirus scams: How to spot and stop them

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Criminals are exploiting the outbreak of coronavirus to launch financial scams and we want to help you stay safe during this time. Since February, Action Fraud claim that consumers have been victim of over £800k worth of fraudulent scams due to coronavirus.  

Here are just some of the scams that have been going around: 

  • Fake fines, real money: many people are receiving fake messages claiming to be from the Government issuing a fine. The scammer informs the recipient that their movements have been monitored and have broken the lockdown rules and must pay a fine or face even more severe repercussions.  
  • If it’s ‘goodwill’, it’s good scamming: the Metropolitan Police has published a warning over a fake message from HMRC claiming that, ‘As part of the NHS promise to battle the Covid-19 virus, HMRC has issued a payment of £258 as a goodwill payment’. They will require you to add your bank details in order to make this payment.  
  • WhatsApp requests to forward your code: a new scam could give fraudsters unlimited access to your WhatsApp messages, photos and videos. Someone who knows your phone number can request to register your WhatsApp on a different device, and when a verification code is sent to you, the scammer will then try to coax you into forwarding the code to them. This can lead them to target your contacts with requests for money. 

How to spot and protect yourself against Covid-19 scams and fake news… 

  • Who’s WHO?: many scammers are sending out unsolicited emails and texts claiming to be from GOV.uk and even health bodies such as the NHS, the WHO and the CDC often using an urgent tone to scare and intimidate you into following the link. There are several ways for you to tell if these messages are fake.  
  • Grammar doth make the message: more often than not these scammers aren’t masters of the English language and leave silly mistakes in the messaging - often a comma without a space or using the term ‘u’ instead of ‘you’. It’s important to always check the spelling and grammar. 
  • He who shall not be named: if the message is from a legitimate source that knows you, they will include your name and not terms like ‘Dear sir’. Even the NHS will use your name if they text you.  
  • No-name domain: over 1,400 domains have been created since February linked to Covid-19 and although many will be legitimate, there will be some used by fraudsters to trick you. Always look at the domain and if you aren’t sure what to look out for, Take Five has a fantastic guide to help you. 
  • Don’t be silly, protect that… device: one of the key steps into staying protected is ensuring that all your devices have up-to-date antivirus software. By protecting your device, you can be warned in advance of fraudulent websites and dangerous links. 

If you encounter a scam it’s important that you report it. The more scams are reported the more likely they’ll be taken down and less likely to cause damage to unsuspecting members of the public. For more tips on looking out for scams, have a look at our blog ‘Top tips for avoiding online scams’.

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Paragon Bank PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England number 05390593. Registered office 51 Homer Road, Solihull, West Midlands B91 3QJ. Paragon Bank PLC is registered on the Financial Services Register under the firm reference number 604551