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Stay alert to the latest COVID-19 scams

Cybercriminals like to target vulnerable people in vulnerable times, in the hope to catch you out when you may be preoccupied or anxious. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different, there have been a number of reports of fraudsters using the current situation to try and scam people. Now that lockdown measures are easing and there’s a glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important people don’t become complacent to these threats. Here are the top 2 most prevalent scams and how you can stay alert to them.

Track and Trace scam

If you were to receive a text right now saying that someone you came into contact with has tested positive for COVID-19, you’d rightfully be concerned. You’d also probably like to know information on what you should do or how you can get tested, and that’s exactly what cybercriminals are doing. The link for more information they provide will take you to a webpage which asks for personal details (phishing). With the contact tracing app being a hot topic on the Government daily briefings and in the news, it could be an easy one to fall for.

How can you stay alert?

The organisation Full Fact has provided detailed information to help you stay alert from the Track and Trace scam. You can read the full article here but the key takeaways are:

  • The Track and Trace text will not:
    • ask you for your Bank account or card numbers
    • to fill in or provide your social media login information
    • ask you to set up a PIN
    • ask you to download anything
  • The URL of the track and trace website is: https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/ – any variations are probably a scam and you should leave the website immediately
  • Scammers are capable of faking phone numbers so you can no longer trust that the number is legit.

Refund scams

These scams aren’t new, and may not explicitly mention COVID-19, but in a time that is financially difficult for many, it’s easy to fall for a scam email claiming to be offering a refund. Two key examples of this are:

  • “HMRC” – with a number of people furloughed and some at risk of redundancy, people may believe they could be owed money from their employer and so more likely to fall for these scams.
  • Travel companies – many people will have booked holidays which they have now been unable to go on and are waiting for refunds.

These are just two examples but cybercriminals are known to mimic almost any company to try and scam people, including banks and utilities companies.

How can you stay alert?

These tips are good practice for being vigilant even outside the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Check the sender address: though cybercriminals are getting smarter with masking the “from” name, usually you can spot the email address being wrong, see example below:stay alert
  • Look for spelling/grammatical mistakes: again this used to be more prevalent, but it’s still worth checking. Emails from a legitimate company are unlikely to make multiple spelling or grammatical mistakes if ANY.
  • Hover over links: before clicking any links in an email you should do the above checks to ensure it’s safe. If you’re confident the email is legitimate you should hover over the link to see the URL.

If you’re unsure it’s best to call the company direct – it’s always better to err on the side of caution!

Protect your business

The above scams are just two ways in which cybercriminals are taking advantage of the current situation. As well as ‘staying alert’ to the potential threats there are also a number of business security solutions on the market that can do some of the work for you. If you’d like to find out more information about how you can protect your business from cybercriminals please get in touch.

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