HMRC, Royal Mail, Natwest, NHS: Covid scams to look out for
With the nation currently enduring a third national lockdown amid the ongoing rise in Covid cases, opportunistic fraudsters are taking advantage of the current situation to exploit people.
During the pandemic it’s important you are aware of the scams doing the rounds to give you the best chance of keeping your personal details safe.
Scammers will often make contact via email, phone calls and texts using sophisticated methods to exploit people while there are so many concerns from the vaccine rollout to the economy.
Here are the Covid scams to be aware of as the nation endures a third national lockdown.
Reports claim people around the UK have been targeted by fraudsters claiming to be HM Revenue and Customs.
The scam comes in the form of a text message, asking for personal details claiming that the recipient can claim money from a fictional government grant.
The text message reportedly reads: “From HMRC: The third lockdown has been announced, we have been issued a grant off £240 to help during this period, visit to claim.”
The message is followed by a link.
Despite the fact that the message claims to be from the HMRC, the message contains a number of grammatical errors, such as the use of the word “off” instead of the word “of” - a tell-tale sign that this is not a legitimate message.
The website that the text links to has been created to look similar to the government website, with the same branding, layout and font choices. However, it is not hosted on the official gov.uk domain, which should be another red flag for those targeted by the scam, as it indicates that the website is fake.
The fake website also informs users that they will need to provide their card details in order to claim the grant.
Both Chrome and Safari web browsers automatically flag the website as deceptive and inform users that it may be tricking them into disclosing their card details.
Police have warned of a Royal Mail delivery scam, the Oxford Mail reports.
People were forced to enjoy Christmas on a smaller scale this year as restrictions remained in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As a result Royal Mail saw a surge in deliveries over the festive season with more people opting to send their gifts to families and friends in the post rather than deliver them in person.
In an online alert, Thames Valley Police warned residents that scammers have been sending a ‘huge number’ of fake delivery emails and texts as fraudsters look to capitalise on a backlog of Christmas.
Scammers claim to be from the parcel delivery company asking customers to pay for a ‘redelivery fee’.
Using the Royal Mail’s red logo, message says that due to ‘incomplete address’ the company need bank details and personal information to resend the parcel.
In an alert warning, police warned: “If you have ordered something online, they usually send you a delivery number so you can track delivery. Make a note of these reference numbers and keep them to hand in case you get one of these calls.”
Natwest issued an urgent scam warning to customers after fraudsters attempted to steal personal and financial information from customers.
The bank has said that criminal fraudsters have been using the latest lockdown restrictions and vaccine rollout to exploit people for personal gain.
Criminals have been making scam phone calls to customers, as well as sending fake emails and text messages, pretending to be from official sources, including the NHS, in an attempt to steal information.
Jason Costain, head of fraud at NatWest said: “You are now more likely to be a victim of fraud in the UK than any other crime.
“During last year’s lockdown criminals took advantage of more people working remotely and online.
“It therefore makes sense to take some simple steps to make yourself and your family more fraud proof.”
NHS vaccine scam
According to Trading Standards, people are reporting to have received a text message claiming to be from the NHS.
It reads: “We have identified that you are eligible to apply for your vaccine. For mor information and to apply, follow here.”
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said that text messages had been sent out including links to fake NHS websites that asked recipients for bank details, supposedly for verification purposes.
Such messages were first reported at the end of December on the Western Isles of Scotland, but the CTSI says they are “by no means limited to the region”.
Katherine Hart, lead officer at CTSI, said: “The vaccine brings great hope for an end to the pandemic and lockdowns, but some only wish to create even further misery by defrauding others.
“The NHS will never ask you for banking details, passwords, or pin numbers and these should serve as instant red flags.”
How to spot scams and what to do if you see one
Trading Standards South West the warning signs to look out for.
A cold call – someone contacts you about something that you didn’t request or expect.
Fantastic offer – the offer sounds very attractive yet too good to be true.
A sense of urgency – you’re told that the offer is only available for a limited time or that you must act quickly.
Odd language – the wording in the email or letter doesn’t sound right, or it has bad spelling and grammar.
Secrecy – you’re told not to tell anyone.
Upfront payment request – you’re asked to pay money upfront or send a fee without an agreed contract.
Information request – you’re asked to give personal information or banking details.
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