Covid-19 Fraud?

A picture of a lady on the phone taking a fraudulent call

As is the case in any situation where large sums of money are involved, a new type of financial crime has snuck onto the scene. This crime is Covid Fraud.

With 150 support schemes announced by the government, the guidance for which being woolly at times, vulnerable people in need of support have found themselves at risk of being scammed by fraudsters, who are keen to capitalise on the disaster.

As of July, a total of 2866 victims of these scammers had lost over £11 million. Email phishing scams, as well as texts, were responsible for this.

Here are some scams to watch out for, and to protect your money. Remember, if you are ever in doubt about anything, call your bank, or indeed your accountant. We are an accountancy firm in Milton Keynes and will be happy to provide friendly assistance if you need help.

1 – Fake Government Grants

Emails from fake government addresses have been targeting people, claiming to offer grants up to £7500. These emails are links that lead to websites used for stealing your personal and financial data. If you get an email like this, do not click the link or fill in your details.

2 – Fake relief funds

Similar to point one, these emails contain links to forms that ask for your personal information.

3 – Council tax reductions

These emails are government branded and offer “tax reductions” for those hit by covid-19. They once again lead to fake government websites that steal your data.

4 – Universal credit application help

Some scammers are offering those applying for Universal Credit “help”, in return for payment. Do not pay anyone for their “services” in helping you apply.

5 – Fake test and trace results

Some fraudsters have been disguising themselves as Test and Trace representatives and sending out phishing emails that claim the recipient has been exposed to Covid-19. These emails have links that will either infect your computer with malware or steal your financial information.

6 – Fake hand sanitiser and masks

Fake adverts offering hand sanitizer and masks, to benefit from the shortages.

7 – Free TV licensing

Nobody is actually getting 6 months of free TV licensing. Scammers are sending out fake texts and emails claiming that this is the case and that there is a problem processing the recipient’s direct debit details. Once again, the link will steal your personal information.

8 – Streaming services

Plenty of emails have been going out, from sites such as Netflix and Amazon, claiming that the victim has to update their payment method. This is false! Do not put in your card details!

9 – Romance scam

Capitalising on lonely people in lockdown, catfishes have been flooding dating sites, acting as honey pots to try and get money out of the victims directly. They might use someone else’s real photos so always check profile URLs, grammar, and do a reverse image search.

10 – Fake bitcoin

There are pretend investment companies attempting to manipulate people into “investing” in bitcoin when they actually don’t have access to the stocks. If you do want to invest, always consult your accountant first.

How to tell if you are being scammed!

Stop: Pause before you click, spend, or do anything rash.

Challenge: Investigate what’s been asked of you. If the person or company contacting you gets aggressive or tries to rush you, they are scammers because real banks or companies will never try to extort money.

Protect: Call your bank without hesitation if you have fallen prey to a fraud and report it.

Things to check for

  • Poor spelling.
    Generally, company emails will be well-written and not contain spelling errors. Scam emails are more likely to have spelling and grammatical issues.
  • How are they addressing you?
    Check the contact policy of the company that has purportedly contacted you. Sometimes a scam email will have your first and last name in all capitals, or they might simply say “Dear Customer”. Most companies do not address email recipients this way.
  • Do you even have an account with this company?
    If you’ve never used their services before, simply ignore it.
  • Random, unsolicited calls
    Nothing is ever as urgent as a scammer will pretend it is. You do not need to transfer money immediately. Even council tax reminders will ask you if you are having trouble paying the full sum and offer you help with paying.
  • Too good to be true?
    Just don’t believe it.