Fraud in Scotland soared by 56% during the Spring/Summer lockdown, largely caused by criminals pretending to be NHS workers calling or visiting people.
There has also been a large number of fraudulent applications for UK government grants.
The criminals most commonly pretend to be officials of NHS Test and Protect. Some go door to door offering Coronavirus tests or collecting donations or offering to spray paths and driveways with anti- bacterial sprays etc.
This is all fake – you do not have to pay for Coronavirus tests (as long as you have symptoms or have been referred for a test by an official or a health worker).
The door-to-door activities are always fake – NHS Test and Protect staff will not turn up at your door unless they are tracking down contacts – and there is no charge involved in that.
As for spraying driveways and similar – this is just preying upon people’s fears and offers no benefit except to the scammer taking your money.
Criminals also called people’s homes, telling them they had to isolate for 14 days as they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19. The caller says they’ll send a home test kit and asks for bank details. Again, Covid tests are always free of charge.
If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.
By mid-summer, Americans had lost an estimated $145 Million to Coronavirus Fraud and more than 200,000 complaints of scams and fraud had been filed according to the Federal Trade Commission.
These scams are typically:
Fake products e.g. torches that supposedly shine light to destroy all viruses and bacteria but are just blue light which has no effect or PPE that is such poor quality as to be useless
Fake services e.g. people turning up at your door offering to sanitise your driveway for a high price
Fake tests i.e. fake versions of the real Coronavirus tests used by health professionals, but these ones do not work.
Fake claims for government help e.g. the companies that offered to make hospital ventilators and took payment for them but had no clue how to make them
Fake offers to businesses of loans to help them over Covid-19 restrictions
In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, government and the authorities have been working hard to offer stimulus packages, business support grants and loans, plus various job retention schemes and direct help for the public.
Unfortunately, the speed of response has left loopholes which scammers are quick to exploit and they also seek to benefit from fear of the virus by offering products that don’t work and pointless services supposedly to protect people. The authorities have confiscated and prosecuted numerous criminals for trying to sell unauthorised Coronavirus tests and fake cures.
Some of the frauds are simple phishing exercises – intended to get your personal information that can be sold to identity thieves. The scammers simply use Coronavirus therapies or cures as bait for the scam.
The general advice from the authorities is to beware cold callers, spam emails and anyone offering anything to do with Coronavirus that is not certified.
If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.
There are unscrupulous people who sell fake coronavirus tests. They know the tests are either entirely bogus or so unreliable as to be worse than useless. These can lead to people risking their lives if they believe they are immune to the virus but that’s not the case.
A pharmacist and a surveyor have been arrested for illegally selling coronavirus testing kits.
National Crime Agency officers arrested the pharmacist from Croydon and seized around £20,000. He was arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making false and misleading claims about the tests’ capability.
In a separate investigation, a surveyor from Uxbridge was stopped while driving his car. Inside the vehicle were 250 Covid-19 testing kits. He was arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making false and misleading claims about the capability of the tests.
He told investigators he was planning on selling the kits to construction workers.
Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations, said: “Criminals capitalise on fear and anxiety and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets.
Tariq Sarwar, Head of Operations for Enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: “We are committed to working together with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.
There are no certified coronavirus tests for sale in the UK for home use so if any are offered to you then they are illegal and a health risk and this should be reported to the Police.
Also, the Police encourage the public, and healthcare professionals, that if you spot any posts claiming to sell these types of products, these can be reported to us via the Yellow Card Scheme: https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk/
If you have any experiences with phishing scams do let me know, by email.
There have always been scams involving the sale of puppies and kittens but currently there are more, due to the social distancing rules that mean prospective buyers cannot visit to view the kittens or puppies and scammers are taking advantage of this.
The scammers offer animals for sale and you pay a deposit, but the animals are never delivered.
It’s always better to either wait until it is possible to view the animals or for someone on your behalf to view the animals but in current circumstances that is not always possible.
If you do choose to buy an animal seen only by photograph or recorded video, then take whatever steps you can to ensure the seller is genuine and that your payment is protected.
Insist on a Live view of the animal e.g. using Facebook Live or Zoom or similar video conferencing services
Verify the track record of the seller
Select a seller close to your location
Verify that payment details for the seller match the company name and address
Do not make full payment until the animal has been received and is what you expect
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With the Covid-19 outbreak, there are new APPS that seem to be useful – hand washing guides, latest news and statistics, virus trackers etc. Most of these are well intentioned but scammers create their own APPS that look similar but have malicious intent.
APPS on the official download sites are generally very safe as APPLE and Google and Microsoft verify new APPS, but there are many sites where you can download APPS that are not so safe.
Recently, Check Point reported more than 30,00 new Covid-19-related domains were registered recently of which 0.4% (131) were malicious and 9% (2,777) were suspicious and under investigation. This means over 51,000 Covid-19-related domains in total have been registered in 2020 so far. The majority of these websites are benign of course but some enable download of dangerous APPS.
ThreatLabZ have discovered an app which claims it can notify you when anyone infected with the virus is nearby. However, the app contains dangerous malware that allows it to read your contacts and even send text messages.
Once the app is installed, it asks the user to click a button that leads to a web site selling masks, but in fact the app collects your contacts, then sends them all a text message with a download link, in an effort to spread itself to more users.
Check Point Research has identified malicious applications, masquerading as innocuous Covid-19 apps, that are designed to take control of Android devices. Once the malicious application is installed, a hacker takes intrusive control of the device, accessing the owner’s calls, SMS, calendar, files, contacts, microphone and camera.
An Android app called “COVID19 Tracker” is an example of ransomware that hides itself as a real-time Covid-19 map tracker.
If a user grants the app access to certain phone settings, the ransomware is enabled and locks the user out of their phone unless they pay $100 in bitcoin to the hackers within 48 hours.
Some governments use surveillance APPS and their population have to use them or else, but thankfully most developed countries don’t do this.
However, scammers will.
Security company Lookout discovered an Android app called “corona live 1.1,” which pretends to be the real “corona live” app and uses the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 tracking data – which a legitimate resource for tracking infection rates, death counts and recovery rates around the world.
People using the app thought they were keeping an eye on the pandemic, but the malicious app was actually tracking them and getting access to the device’s photos, videos, location and camera.
Only download apps directly from the Apple Store, or Android Play Store or Microsoft store as these are safety checked before being made available.
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Criminals are taking advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic – spreading fear and misinformation, conning people into paying fines that are false, to buying protective equipment that doesn’t exist, donating to fake charities and so on.
These difficult days bring out the best in some people but also the worst in scumbags who just want to profit at other people’s expense.
These are the most common such scams.
Personal Protective Equipment
Almost every country is short of protective equipment – for their health services, social care works and others who encounter Coronavirus. So, the scammers offer such equipment. In most cases they don’t have any and you pay and receive nothing. In other cases, they have poor quality equipment but charge a very high price for it. Despite the desperate need, do not buy from unaccredited sources as you are likely to end up in a worse situation that when you started.
There are lots of emails, text messages, phone calls and social media posts claiming to be from charities seeking to help research into a vaccine or to help those affected by Coronavirus or to buy protective equipment for health workers. Some real charities are taking these positive actions but almost all such unsolicited communications are from scammers. They keep your money and no-one else benefits.
Fake offers of Payments By Government
Most governments now have schemes in place to help business and citizens. Some scammers are targeting businesses – trying to get confidential information by claiming to be government bodies ready to make payments.
Emails and texts mostly but also telephone calls telling people they have been fined and must pay up immediately. These are always fake – no government body demands immediate payment by Bitcoin, gift card etc. as the scammers do.
World Health Organisation (WHO)
WHO is a key organisation in the fight against Coronavirus and many scammers are pushing out fake information, fake vaccines, fake Coronavirus test kits etc. claiming to be from WHO.
These are all fake as WHO only works at government level.
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.