Fraud Update: Coronavirus

Fraudsters are opportunists and they are using the coronavirus outbreak to try to steal your money and information. Here are some of the ways they’re doing it.


18th May 2020


Woman using a laptop computer


Criminals may send text messages pretending to be organisations like banks, the NHS or even the Government. They are also using a technique called “spoofing” which can make a message appear in a chain of texts alongside previous genuine SMS messages from that organisation (see image below).

The fraudsters then attempt to trick people into giving away personal and financial information or money. Avoid clicking on any links contained within text messages and always log into your bank account by keying the website address or using a saved favourite link on your device to update information or make payments.

Here are some specific scams fraudsters are trying:

  • Using the uncertainty around stock markets to advise transfers into higher risk or alternate investments that are not legitimate.
  • Pretending to be from the claims departments of banks or insurance companies, promising to cover losses such as a holiday for a small fee.
  • Sending messages advising that your bank is in trouble and that you should send money to a new bank account that has been set up in your name.
  • Tricking people into making a small payment to set up payment holidays on existing products/services such as mortgages.
  • Fake lockdown messages (see image) advising that you have been fined for leaving your home and must make a payment.
Examples of genuine and fake SMS messages
Woman using a smartphone

Shopping online

With access to shops curtailed, for both groceries and general retail, there is a temptation to head online.

Fraudsters are using text messages and emails to lure individuals into buying goods that do not exist or are counterfeit.

More specifically:

  • Food vouchers or promises to be prioritised with food delivery.
  • Personal protective equipment (including fake tests, face masks, vaccines or fake COVID-19 testing kits).

Please remember the old adage: “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.

Working from home

For many, being away from the office means using personal devices or adopting new ways of working because normal processes have been disrupted by the outbreak. Fraudsters can use the increases in businesses working from home to target individuals or employees to impersonate senior staff/influential roles.

There has been an increase in Authorised Push Payment fraud across the banking industry. This is where individuals are tricked into sending money from their personal account or their business bank account to one belonging to a scammer. Businesses that are adopting new business processes and ways of paying are particularly vulnerable.

Individuals and businesses need to take appropriate security measures, including updated and patched software and secure network connections to prevent unauthorised access. Additional training to spot the signs of a fraudulent attack is also a good idea. In addition, any security software such as anti-virus and firewalls should be maintained to the latest release/patch.