The majority of recent news has been about how people can keep themselves safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. But the outbreak is posing other risks related to the virus. People around the world are keen to get all the latest information about COVID-19, particularly from online resources.
Unfortunately, this is playing right into scammers’ hands. Scammers will use anything to their advantage, and the global Coronavirus crisis is no exception. Find out how you can stay safe from Coronavirus scams.
Government text messages
On March 24th, the government sent a text message to people across the UK, like the one below.
The message states: “GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
If you have received this message, or similar messages, we would recommend that you do not click the link. Even in this case, while it is a legitimate message with a legitimate link, you shouldn’t click it. Instead, type in the website’s address directly into a web browser. That way, you know you’re going to the right place and getting correct information, rather than to a page a scammer has set up.
Watch out for spoof messages
Wandsworth Borough Council issued a warning for residents to be on their guard against a series of scam messages, where people are told that they’ve been fined for breaching the government’s rules. One fake message reads:
“We would like to inform you that you have been recorded as leaving your home on 3 occasions yesterday. A fine of £35 has been added to your gov.uk account. For further information please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-penalty-payment-tracking. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.”
“You have exited the specified 1 mile radius on three separate occasions today. A penalty notice has been issued to your address held on the electoral roll. More info & appeals can be found at gov.uk/cvpenalty. Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
If recipients click the links, and enter their payment details, they are putting the bank account data at serious risk.
The fake text messages appear to have been sent from the same sender as the legitimate government one. Scammers have manipulated their texts to make it look like they’re from the same sender.
What to do if you’re sent information about Coronavirus
If you unexpectedly receive emails, text messages or phone calls, the government’s advice is that you should:
- reject offers that come out of the blue
- get the company’s name and establish their credentials using the FCA’s Financial Services Register
- beware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online
- not click links or open emails from senders you don’t already know
- be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true
- take your time to make all the checks you need, even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’
- not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details)
- seek financial guidance or advice before changing your pension arrangements or making investments
What can employers do?
In order to keep your employees safe from Coronavirus scams, employers should:
- give employees a list of phone numbers, so they can contact a member of their IT team or other responsible person in case they have any IT issues.
- inform employees of the hardware, software, and services they can use that could help to connect and share files with colleagues during the special circumstances.
- establish ground rules for employees when it comes to using personal hardware while working from home, such as printers.
- set up two-factor authentication wherever possible to add an extra layer of protection to accounts.
- make sure employees have limited access rights and can only connect to the services they need for their specific tasks, rather than giving employees access to the entire corporate network.
During this time of uncertainty its important to try and stay safe. And you can stay safe online if you’re vigilant and follow the advice above. If you’d like to discuss any of this further, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with ACUTEC today.