We are receiving reports of scams that prey on our coronavirus fears. If the information on this page doesn't answer your query, be sure to get in touch with us!
Types of Scams
There are so many types of scams and they change so quickly so as to deliberately confuse us and make us part with our money. Coronavirus is new, we're still learning about it. Whilst the majority of people are using this time as a time to come together, there are a few unscrupulous individuals that are using this time to con us.
Coronavirus scams are scams that prey on our vulnerabilities and lack of knowledge. Understandably, we want what's best for our loved ones and will take steps to ensure we're free from the virus, but scammers will take advantage of this.
Web Streaming Services such as Netflix and Disney+
With many of us spending more time at home, web streaming services have reported a surge in demand as we look for new ways of keeping entertained.
We are aware of scams that use the name of well-known web streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+. Fake websites are created to look like the real thing and money is taken from consumers but no service is provided. Once the scammers have your card details, they can continue taking payments from your account.
If the website is not asking for any payment, they could be using your details for what's known as 'data harvesting'. This is where a scammer will collect as much data on you as possible and use what they have to either sell to other scammers or commit ID fraud using your details.
We are aware of various different apps aimed at providing updates on the virus. These apps are often known as 'coronavirus update' apps and contain a ransomware which locks the users device and demands a payment to release it.
These apps are often only available on unofficial websites, and not on the usual app platforms such as Apple Store or Android (or Google) Play Store.
Home Testing Scams
Authorities all over the UK have reported an increase in home visits from fraudulent healthcare workers that claim to carry out door to door testing for coronavirus. Often these workers are dressed in full hazmat suits. In these scams, the scammer is not after one thing in particular - once they have set foot in your property, there's no telling what they'll do.
We are aware that these scammers are targeting the most vulnerable in our society, but with our collective fear and lack of knowledge over a situation that is so alien to us, anyone can be affected.
It is worth noting that there is no mass testing for coronavirus so if you get a knock on the door from someone claiming to be carrying out a test, politely decline their offer!
Text Message or 'smishing' Scams
You may have heard of the term 'phishing', which concerns scam emails that are designed to look like they've come from a legitimate sender. 'Smishing' is a similar concept, only it applies to text (or SMS) messages that are fake but designed to look like they come from an official source.
One common 'smishing' scam is a text from what looks like the official Government website www.gov.uk. The text states that you have been observed breaching the 'lockdown' rules and that you are now being fined. If you click on the link included in the message, you are taken to an official looking website to pay the fine, but it's all fake and you're not paying the fine, you're giving money to the scammer.
Other reasons a scammer may send you a text message includes a 'goodwill' payment from the Government, and free school meals.
Online Shopping Scams
Sales for face masks and hand sanitisers have sky-rocketed in the last few weeks, as part of our battle to keep ourselves hygienic and coronavirus-free.
Be wary of fake websites as the people behind them will take your money (often selling the goods at an inflated price) and then not deliver anything to you. Because these websites are fraudulent, the people behind them are difficult to trace and can quickly move on.
Coronavirus is new and we have had to make huge changes to our daily lives so it's to be expected that we're all feeling quite vulnerable now. Our advice for staying one step ahead of the scammers can be found below:
- always look for the padlock symbol when visiting a website
- when clicking on a link in an email or text message, look at the website it is sending you to - if the website doesn't match the organisation that the message supposedly came from, it's likely to be fake
- if you are asked to pay for goods or services via bank or money transfer services only, then this should be a red flag. These methods of payment are legitimate, but legitimate companies will usually give other payment options too
- be wary of bad spelling and grammar - official sources of information are likely to have correct spelling and grammar as they are not rushed and are checked before sending.
What we are Doing
The UK European Consumer Centre has no powers to take action against the scammers. That doesn't mean we can't help - in fact, the information on our database informs the relevant organisations of changing consumer behaviour.
The more enquiries we receive, the more we can feed back to enforcement bodies that do have the authority to take action. These bodies often do not have public-facing services so are reliant on the information provided by organisations such as ours.
Put simply, your enquiry to us will never be a waste of time - you can be assured that the information you provide us will go on to inform changes in law and enforcement of criminal behaviour.