Invariably, a crisis affecting large numbers of people triggers a huge volume of fraudulent activity.
With Coronavirus, expect fake ads for anything from vaccines to facemasks, links to sensational news and video, bogus charity appeals, and phishing emails claiming to be from travel, compensation and insurance companies or event/tournament organisers. Fraudsters know that at times like these, we may be too concerned or preoccupied with other things, to spot that something isn’t right.
Current Coronavirus-related Online Scams
Here are some of the online scams (and variations of these) that we have been made aware of since the onset of the Coronavirus outbreak.
- Copycat websites charging up to £40 to SORN a vehicle (while it is not being used because of the lockdown). The DVLA provides this service free of charge.
- Online shopping scams where people have ordered protective facemasks, hand sanitiser and other products, which have never arrived.
- Fraudsters claiming to be from the Red Cross or other organisations, offering via emails, texts, social posts or phone calls to do the shopping for the elderly, vulnerable or NHS and other keyworkers and taking their money (normally by bank transfer).
- emails, texts, posts claiming to be from the NHS, collecting money towards development of a vaccine.
- emails, texts, posts claiming to be from various charities, inviting donations to Coronavirus victims/families or other related good causes.
- Fraudsters claiming to be from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO), saying they will provide a list of active infections in their area. The link actually takes victims to a malicious web page capturing personal details or malware downloads, or they are asked to make a donation of support with a payment into a Bitcoin account.
- Articles on the coronavirus which link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates. The link is fraudulent.
- So-called investment scheme and trading advice via email, websites and social media posts, encouraging people to take advantage of the Coronavirus downturn, and a subsequent stock market boom. They offer high returns and low risk in a bid to trick investors.
- A West Sussex man was arrested for selling fake treatment kits online across the world. The kits not only did not work; they contained potassium thiocyanate and hydrogen peroxide, both of which are extremely harmful chemicals when the user is instructed to wash and rinse their mouth with them.
- There is a text in circulation doing the rounds claiming to be from HMRC, offering NHS workers tax refund ‘as a goodwill payment’
- Check Point, a cybersecurity firm, notes that coronavirus websites — those with “coronavirus” or “covid” in the domain name — are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains.