Protect yourself from Coronavirus cybercrime and fraud

Since the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, businesses and individuals have had to make numerous changes to the way they work including moving to homeworking and managing tax payments differently. Unfortunately, fraudsters are exploiting members of the public and companies with various types of scams and cybercrime.

With information from NatWest bank and other sources, we have collated the top threats that customers are currently facing and how you can protect yourself and your business from any potential fraud/crime.

How to fight fraud during the shutdown 

From an increase in homeworking to widespread uncertainty, opportunities for fraudsters are on the rise. How can businesses protect themselves and their staff?

  • 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.

Latest alert as at 28th April 2020 – Morrisons ‘free’ groceries

Police are warning about a new scam via emails and text messages that is doing the rounds where the message reads: "Morrison’s is giving away free groceries worth £250 to support the nation during Corona pandemic. Hurry up! Collect your FREE voucher. " 

Whilst this may look and sound legitimate to some, it is wise to note that the link starts with ‘http’ and not ‘https’ showing that it is not a secure link.


What types of Coronavirus scams do I need to be aware of?

TV Licence cancellation

Criminals are sending phishing emails or text messages, pretending to be from the TV Licensing Authority. They want you to click the link to get your phone number and the name of your bank. You will then receive a call from the criminals, pretending to be from your bank's fraud team and persuaded to move your money to a safe account or give away card reader codes.

Invoice redirection 

Posing as a creditor or supplier, fraudsters are making contact via a number of different channels, to tell you their company’s bank details have changed due to the coronavirus outbreak, providing new sort code and account numbers. Always check with your contacts via a separate communication whether this is actually true.


Fraudulent text messages known as ‘smishing’ where the user is tricked into downloading a Trojan horse, virus or other malware onto their phone or other mobile device. Common examples may involve a text which states that there is a problem with your bank account and ask you to call a phone number or visit a link. Currently, there is a fraudulent message purporting to be from the UK government with a message about Coronavirus. If you receive a text, please first of all check for the genuine government messages by clicking please click here.

Telephone fraud

Vishing is fraudulent contact made by phone. 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.

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.

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.

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.