From fake lockdown fines to bogus giveaways, shield your savings from coronavirus scams as fraudsters pounce

CON artists have unleashed coronavirus scams which have so far cost victims a total of £5million – an average of £2,400 per person.

One in three adults has been targeted, according to Citizens Advice, with the most at-risk people being hit harder.

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The lockdown has seen a boom in online scams


The lockdown has seen a boom in online scams Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Consumer minister Paul Scully said: “I am utterly appalled at opportunistic scammers targeting people made most vulnerable by the pandemic – those suffering from illness, or facing financial difficulties.

“Now, more than ever, it is vital people remain vigilant to scams and know how to protect themselves.”

Here we look at different cons to watch out for.

Test-and-trace scams

THE NHS Test and Trace service is being used by con artists to dupe people into handing out private information  so they can plunder their bank accounts.

They do this using fraudulent apps, emails and texts that tell people they have been in contact with a Covid-19 carrier, and ask them to click a link or call a number.

Or they might contact you directly, with the caller ID showing on your phone appearing to be an official NHS number. 

It is done through a process called number spoofing.

Don’t fall for this track-and-trace scam


Don’t fall for this track-and-trace scam

Having got you on the phone, they might say you need to pay a fee – sometimes as much as £500 – for a testing kit. A much higher amount is then taken from the account.

TSB said the highest loss from test and trace scams was several thousand pounds. 

Genuine texts, calls or emails from the NHS will not ask you for personal details upfront. 

The web address for the NHS service is

Purchase scams

FAMILIES have been doing more online shopping  but not necessarily from official websites and sellers.

More than 190 bogus sites claiming to legitimately sell Levi’s jeans have been shut down by cyber security firm BrandShield in the past three months.

They include sites such as 

Many people have also been caught out by  ads on social media. 

TSB said one of its Scottish customers paid £200 for a bike advertised  by “an NHS worker” who said they were self-isolating. 

The bike did not exist, but she got her money back thanks to TSB’s refund guarantee, which reimburses all victims of fraud.

A text prompting the recipient to enter a bogus giveaway


A text prompting the recipient to enter a bogus giveaway

Work-from-home scams

CROOKS pretend to be from workers’ HR departments promising a tax rebate – but are gathering personal information.

Scammers can figure out where people work by searching their Twitter or LinkedIn profiles.

They call the victim posing as someone from their company’s payroll. They may claim a tax refund is due for home-working and ask for your bank details. 

Or a fake human resources team may share a link to its “disease management policy” extracting personal details through a fake sign-in page or infect the worker’s computer with a virus. Bogus BT workers might also call, and request remote access to your PC.

Having gained this, they then make up an excuse to get you to log in to your online banking, before emptying the account.

Online giveaways

PROMOTIONS and surveys on Facebook and Twitter offer to help out families who are struggling during the pandemic.

But really they just want those who take part to reveal personal information.

Many of them ask for details such as maiden names, family information, pets and contact details, including email addresses and phone numbers.

These are then used to attempt to hack into people’s bank accounts.
In one recent con highlighted by cyber security firm Fico, scammers on WhatsApp offered £175 worth of free groceries at Lidl to “support the nation during the corona pandemic”. People were then directed to dodgy site to fill out a survey that asked for personal information.

Participants had to forward it to 20 friends to qualify for the vouchers.

An example of a fake fine over lockdown breaches


An example of a fake fine over lockdown breaches

Payment scams

THESE bogus text or emails pretend to be from the Government, offering coronavirus grants or demanding money for breaking lockdown rules.

One email reported this week by cybersecurity firm Mimecast says your “business grant application has been approved”, and then links to a fake Government Gateway website, which asks for your email address and password.

It comes after thousands of businesses have legitimately been given business grants of £10,000 or more from their local councils to help them survive the coronavirus financial crisis. 

Another text warns the recipient  they have been fined £250 for breaking lockdown rules and need to log on to a website, which asks for personal information, to make a payment.

‘I should have known better’

NIK Hudson lost £30 through scam adverts online while on furlough from his job as a digital marketing manager.

While browsing on Instagram he saw two separate ads for a jet-wash attachment and fold-out picnic table that he wanted for his garden. But the items never came.

The 38-year-old, from Nottingham, said: “The fact the ads appeared on Instagram made me feel protected as it’s a big platform. I should have known better really.

“But at that point, lockdown had started and there were bigger things to worry about. I dropped my guard a bit.

“Because the items didn’t cost much I didn’t take time to research. Next time I’d be more careful.”

Nik has since reported the ads as scams on Instagram and is hoping for a refund from Paypal, which he used to pay for the items.

Piers Morgan asks Dr Hilary what’s stopping track and trace scammers taking him off the air

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