Scam: Britons in lockdown targeted with fake texts claiming they must pay a fine for breaching rules

Britons are being targeted by scammers with fraudulent calls and text messages claiming that they must pay a fine for breaching lockdown rules, Ofcom warned.

The racketeering messages purport to come from the UK Government, the NHS, people’s local GP surgeries and even the World Health Organisation (WHO).

They aim to trick unsuspecting members of the public into handing over money to cover the costs of non-existent penalty charges.

Other coronavirus-related scams presently being run include emails, calls or texts promising to offer a COVID-19 test, vaccine, treatment or financial support.

Britons are being targeted by scammers with fraudulent calls and text messages claiming that they must pay a fine for breaching lockdown rules (as pictured), Ofcom warned.

Britons are being targeted by scammers with fraudulent calls and text messages claiming that they must pay a fine for breaching lockdown rules (as pictured), Ofcom warned.

HOW TO SPOT A SCAM 

Check web and email addresses carefully to ensure they are genuine.

Think about the message you are being given — legitimate texts will not be written in broken, error-riddled English, unlike many scams.

If a call or message claims comes from an official body, contact them separately to verify that it is real.

Do not click on suspect links or attachments — these can lead to phishing sites or download viruses. 

Remember that scams in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can be reported to Action Fraud.

‘In the calls, a recorded message or caller will claim to be contacting you about the coronavirus,’ an Ofcom spokesperson warned.

‘They might offer a test for the virus, a treatment or cure, or might offer to discuss your medical needs. However, these calls are designed to encourage you to either speak to an operator, or press a button on your phone for more information.’

‘If you speak to an operator, you could be at risk of giving them your personal information or your financial details, which could result in identity theft or financial loss,’ they continued.

‘If you press a button on your phone you could be connected to a high-cost premium number, leaving you liable for a significant call cost.’ 

‘If you think one of these calls or texts might be genuine — from your GP, for example — you can call your GP’s surgery separately to check whether they have tried to contact you.’

Ofcom also warned that there are scams in operation which claim to be legitimate messages from the the communications regulator itself.

‘A recorded message or caller will claim that, because of more people working from home due to coronavirus, your broadband needs to be slowed down or switched off,’ Ofcom explained.

‘As with the scam calls outlined above, they will try to encourage you to either speak to an operator, or press a button for more information. If you do this, you could face the same risks,’ they continued.

‘Ofcom will never call you out of the blue like this. If you receive one of these calls claiming to be from us, please hang up.’

Information on how to spot the various scams currently known to be in play can be found on the Ofcom website.

An example of a scam message circulating

One message claims you've come into contact with ssomeone with Covid-19

The racketeering messages purport to come from the UK Government, the NHS, people’s local GP surgeries and even the World Health Organisation (WHO). They aim to trick unsuspecting members of the public into handing over money to cover the costs of non-existent penalty charges. Pictured: a legitimate government text message (left) vs a phishing scam (right)

Other coronavirus-related scams presently being run include emails, calls or texts promising to offer a COVID-19 test, vaccine, treatment or financial support. Pictured: A fraudulent text message (left) links victims to a fake Government website (right) to steal personal data

Other coronavirus-related scams presently being run include emails, calls or texts promising to offer a COVID-19 test, vaccine, treatment or financial support. Pictured: A fraudulent text message (left) links victims to a fake Government website (right) to steal personal data 

‘For the less digitally-savvy, scam emails can be a real threat,’ said cyber security website RapidSpike.com CEO Gav Winter, who highlight one such threat he and his colleagues have recently identified.

‘It contains links for you to accept an invitation to a COVID-19 vaccine from the NHS but it is entirely fake. It even gives an option for people to click to decline it.’

‘These links will take you to websites that then attempt to steal your data such as asking for your address and bank details, so don’t ever click on them.’

This scam message claims to be from the NHS

If you click on the email address, you'll find it's not from a legitimate NHS email

‘For the less digitally-savvy, scam emails can be a real threat,’ said cyber security website RapidSpike.com CEO Gav Winter, who highlight one such threat he and his colleagues have recently identified. ‘It contains links for you to accept an invitation to a COVID-19 vaccine from the NHS but it is entirely fake (pictured, left). It even gives an option for people to click to decline it.’ ‘The best way to check if an email is real is by clicking on the name of the person that has sent it,’ Mr Winter continued — adding that the fraudsters were operating from a Hotmail address that was clearly not a legitimate NHS email (right)

‘The best way to check if an email is real is by clicking on the name of the person that has sent it,’ Mr Winter continued — adding that the fraudsters were operating from a Hotmail address that was clearly not a legitimate NHS email.

‘These kinds of scams are particularly heartless, as they are preying on the feelings of the entire nation as we wait patiently to be contacted for the real vaccine.’

‘Cyber crimes like this are also on the rise due to so many more of us managing our daily lives online. Make sure to warn any friends and family you think may be more susceptible to these scams, to help keep their data safe.’

PHISHING INVOLVES CYBER-CRIMINALS ATTEMPTING TO STEAL PERSONAL INFORMATION

Phishing involves cyber-criminals attempting to steal personal information such as online passwords, bank details or money from an unsuspecting victim. 

Very often, the criminal will use an email, phone call or even a fake website pretending to be from a reputable company. 

The criminals can use personal details to complete profiles on a victim which can be sold on the dark web. 

Cyber criminals will use emails in an effort to elicit personal information from victims in order to commit fraud or infect the user's computer for nefarious purposes 

Cyber criminals will use emails in an effort to elicit personal information from victims in order to commit fraud or infect the user’s computer for nefarious purposes 

Some phishing attempts involve criminals sending out infected files in emails in order to take control of a victim’s computer.   

Any from of social media or electronic communication can form part of a phishing attempt. 

Action Fraud warn that you should never assume an incoming message is from a genuine company – especially if it asks for a payment or wants you to log on to an online account. 

Banks and other financial institutions will never email looking for passwords or other sensitive information. 

An effected spam filter should protect from most of the malicious messages, although the user should never call the number at the bottom of a suspicious email or follow their link. 

Experts advise that customers should call the organisation directly to see if the attempted communication was genuine.  

According to Action Fraud: ‘Phishing emails encourage you to visit the bogus websites. 

‘They usually come with an important-sounding excuse for you to act on the email, such as telling you your bank details have been compromised, or claim they’re from a business or agency and you’re entitled to a refund, rebate, reward or discount.

‘The email tells you to follow a link to enter crucial information such as login details, personal information, bank account details or anything else that can be used to defraud you.

‘Alternatively, the phishing email may try to encourage you to download an attachment. The email claims it’s something useful, such as a coupon to be used for a discount, a form to fill in to claim a tax rebate, or a piece of software to add security to your phone or computer. 

‘In reality, it’s a virus that infects your phone or computer with malware, which is designed to steal any personal or banking details you’ve saved or hold your device to ransom to get you to pay a fee.’ 

Source: Action Fraud

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