Scam warning: This sign could mean you’re being scammed in coronavirus crisis

Falling victim to a scam can not only have a heartbreaking impact on a person financially, but it emotionally too. Unfortunately, fraud tactics are rife, both on and offline – and it’s important that people are aware of ways in which they may be able to spot a scam.


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That’s more true than ever during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, which itself is having a devastating financial impact on millions of people.

While the pandemic has seen a plethora of acts of kindness from people across the globe, shockingly, some scammers have been trying to cash in on the ongoing crisis.

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These scams have manifested in all sorts of ways, including phishing and smishing attempts.

For example, the police have issued a warning about messages and e-mails purporting to be from Tesco and Morrisons, promising free vouchers to those who are targeted.

But that’s not the only kind of coronavirus scam that the public has reported.

Hannah, from London, received a message in which the scammer claimed to be from HSBC.

The text read: “HSBC: Payee request for MRS K ADAMS on your account through your HSBC mobile banking. If this wasn’t you, please visit:”

However, upon receiving the SMS, luckily, Hannah realised something was up.

“I don’t even bank with HSBC and have no dealings with them whatsoever – so obviously I questioned this straight away,” she said.

Meanwhile, Max, from Whitefield, received a message which claimed “something went wrong” and his TV licence had been cancelled.

“We’re really sorry to tell you that we cancelled your licence as we were unable to authorise your payment details,” it read.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to suspend your account as you currently have an overdue balance of £12.00.”

The e-mail had been labelled “important” and included a section in which the recipient was told to “get in touch immediately” to pay the aforementioned amount.

Max said: “My spam filters didn’t catch this email – but I knew it was a scam email from the get go as my TV License is registered with another email.

“I took a closer look at the email and noticed the account number was different to the one I had. I also found it ‘fishy’ the fact that instead of saying my name at the start of the email it had my email address.

“I hovered my cursor over the CTA button which revealed the URL and saw it went to a different URL from the official TV licensing website.

“With so many scam emails and as they’re getting harder to identify, I find myself checking a number of emails on a daily basis to double check them. A number of websites also have guidance on their emails and how to spot a scam email which can be useful to use as a reference if you’re unsure.”

Ray Walsh, Digital PrivacyExpert at ProPrivacy, has urged members of the public to be wary of potential scams.

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Speaking exclusively to, he said: “Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 there has been a 400 percent upswing in online scams geared at stealing people’s Personally Identifiable Information and financial details.

“A massive increase in fake websites and phishing portals are causing citizens to have their data stolen at higher rates than ever before, and citizens need to be extremely wary in order to avoid being victimized.

“A surge in fake websites (our research alone has uncovered over 80,000 new malicious Covid-19 domains) purporting to stock important personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, is leading to greater levels of card theft – with some victims being fleeced of the little money they have left in their accounts.

“Scam SMS messages, emails, robocalls, and number spoofing attacks are all being used to phish consumers of their valuable data – with a view to either steal from them directly – or to sell that information on the Dark Web.

“For those who are affected, the potential exists for the stolen data to be used for the purposes of identity theft – which could potentially affect them long into the future.”

Mr Walsh also suggested that there may well be a signal of a potential scam.

“Citizens who are currently self-isolating due to COVID-19 need to be extremely wary of any messages, emails, or phone calls they receive,” he said.

“If a message leverages your emotions by making you feel concerned – this could be a sign that you are being scammed. The same is true of offers or deals for products or services you are in desperate need of – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“Fraudsters use specially devised scripts to cause victims to follow dodgy links or to provide their personal information. It is this sense of urgency that can catch you out, so carefully consider everything you receive and avoid links or download that could cause you to become infected with malware.

“Legitimate organizations such as HMRC or the police are extremely unlikely to contact you via SMS, email or telephone to ask you for your personal details or financial information.

“This data is usually collected via secure portals on official websites only, so do not provide sensitive information outside of these genuine resources.

“And, if you do receive a message or call that attempts to fleece you of your bank details ignore and delete it at once.”

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