Coronavirus Fraud on the Increase

Published: 25 March 2020

ScamRecently Action Fraud has reported a new trend in fraud related to Coronavirus, with victim losses totalling almost £970,000 so far.

The first report of fraud relating to Coronavirus, or COVID-19, was received on 9 February and the number of reports received is increasing by the day.

The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams, where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived.

Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, bogus charities and loan lender fraud.

Action Fraud have also received over 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails. These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing personal information, email logins and passwords, and financial details.

Some of the tactics being used in phishing emails include:

  • Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account;
  • Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates;
  • Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn;
  • Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing.

Unfortunately, fraudsters will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people. This includes even exploiting global tragedies and emergencies.

Please think twice before providing any personal information and handing over your money or bank account details.

If you suspect something maybe a scam, please report it to us by calling 0808 223 1133. If you feel you have lost money following a fraud, please contact Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040.