Coronavirus fraud in its many forms – how to protect yourself

There have been major developments for the protection of individuals and businesses given the rise in scams, cybercrime and fraudulent activity using Coronavirus as bait including Pet scams that will pull on your heart strings.

At LWA, we aim to advise clients of how to protect themselves from all manner of financial threat, and with this in mind, we have summarised what you need to look out for, and how you can protect yourself and your business from any potential fraud.


Scams in the Business Environment

Bogus Public Health Engineer (Doorstep fraud)

Fraudsters have been visiting small businesses claiming to be Public Health Engineers or officials from a government body. Genuine public health officials often visit different locations and conduct an inspection to ensure that they meet all state regulations. They also enforce all state and local regulations related to public water, sewage disposal, waste elimination.

In this instance, criminals are impersonating officials, who are then threatening to fine small businesses, if they don’t immediately disclose their bank account details or pay upfront for a deep clean of  their premises. The scheduled clean never materialises.


Bogus Boss

Bogus emails are sent to staff claiming to be from a senior member of staff within the organisation such as a Director, CEO or Chairman etc. requesting an urgent payment. They will often say that the payment is needed due to exceptional circumstances such as urgent cleaning or medical supplies are required to counter coronavirus and needs to be carried out immediately.


Purchase scams

Watch out for emails, ads, posts, texts or phone calls advertising anything to do with coronavirus – whether it’s for facemasks, vaccines or access to testing kits – any deals that look too good to be true   usually are. These approaches are very likely to be a scammer trying to get their hands on your money or personal details.

 

Businesses Against Scams

With more people working from home than ever before, there have been noted increased stress levels due to less opportunities to talk to colleagues and a different working environment, meaning employees are having to make decisions on their own without verification from people they would normally liaise with.

As a result, businesses are now more susceptible to scams and fraud, and so the National Trading Standards (NTS) Scams Team has set up a project called Businesses Against Scams. This includes a number of resources that companies can share with their employees to educate them on a variety of common business-related frauds including those detailed above.

Please click here to find out more.

 

In addition, you can follow the steps below to further protect yourself and your business from Coronavirus scams and fraud in general:

  • Maintain your defence systems, ensuring home computers have anti-virus protection for example. This is even more important in the current situation as there has been an increase in video conferencing software use. In response to this, platforms like Zoom have introduced password access as introduced security.
  • Empower your people – give them the advice and knowledge they need to ensure your equipment is protected and the signs to look out for. Ensure they feel comfortable in reporting potential or actual incidents of cybercrime.


Residential Scams

  • Smishing - We have previously warned of a fraudulent text message purporting to be from the UK government with a message about Coronavirus – this is still active. If you receive a text, please first of all check for the genuine government messages by clicking please click here.
  • Telephone fraud - Be alert to bogus calls linked to Coronavirus as these could be from fraudsters who claim that they’re from the bank, the police, an IT company or an official health organisation or company that you trust.
  • Pet scams – If you’re one of the many looking to buy a pet during lockdown, ensure you research the seller. Many opportunists are using this trend to either sell disreputably home-bred pets that may carry disease, or simply to con those looking to adopt or rehome an animal, out of their money.


If you feel you have been compromised by fraud or cybercrime, please contact your bank in the first instance. You can find further details on the current Coronavirus higher security risk and where to report instances at the Government National Crime Agency here.