It’s encouraging to see that the majority of our society is pulling together during this difficult time, listening to the scientific advice set out by the government and helping each other where we can.
Unfortunately, there will always be a minority of people who try to make a profit off hard times, and this seems to ring true for the current Coronavirus outbreak.
We’ve seen multiple reports in recent days of fraudulent and scam websites being set up to try and trick people out of their money, with Action Fraud stating that victims of online scams have lost over £960,000 in coronavirus-related cases since the beginning of February. With the virus likely to continue in Europe for the next few months, be sure that you’re not falling victim to a Coronavirus-related scam yourself.
Concerned about Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Find out what to do if you’re struggling with money in our dedicated Coronavirus debt help section.
Spotting a scam website
Money, naturally, is an area you might be concerned about given the implications of Coronavirus. Given that fraudsters might be looking to offer fake financial help and advice right now in order to take advantage of people’s worries (and potentially steal your bank details) it’s essential that you know how to spot a fraudulent website or scam.
Look out for:
- One guaranteed way to be sure if you’re dealing with a real website is by checking its reviews, either on Google or Trustpilot. Don’t assume that just because there’s plenty of five-star reviews the website is legitimate either; the reviews may be fake too if the scam website is new one, so be sure the check that the reviews go back a good while and aren’t just blank five-star reviews with no comments on them.
- Some scam websites attempt to trick people by having very similar URLs to genuine companies. Be sure to check the URL of the website you’re on very closely to see that you’re on the right website.
- Does something about the website you’re looking at seem slightly off, or different to how it usually does? Fake websites might try their best to look like the real thing, but often have mistakes that betray them as being impersonations.
- A lot of scam websites are riddled with incorrect grammar or spelling mistakes, usually because the person operating the scam is from another country and doesn’t speak English as their first language.
Coronavirus phishing scams
Sadly, it’s not just fake websites you need to watch out for. There are plenty of other fraudulent phishing communications that scammers might use to try and get your details. Phishing is classed as a fraudulently pretending to be a reputable organisation, like a bank or retailer, and getting unsuspecting victims to part with sensitive personal information.
You might receive one or more phonecalls over the next few months telling you that you that you can write off your debts because of Coronavirus, or pay off your mortgage early due to the pandemic – as long as you supply your details over the phone.
Never give out sensitive information like this out of the blue – your bank won’t call you up and ask you for it, and neither will a reputable debt management company either. If you think the call is suspicious, simply end the call and contact your bank and see if they’ve tried to call you – if the call is fake, it’s best to report it to your bank directly.
A lot of scam texts tend to try and impersonate your bank or HMRC. They include a link for you to follow to check your balance or claim a tax refund which, if you click, it might take you to a website that installs harmful software on your mobile device.
Check your bank’s website to double-check what correspondence they send via text; they’ll have a list of the communications they send out, and if the text you’ve received isn’t on there, delete it.
As with fake websites, scam emails will usually have some form of giveaway. Common ones include claiming to be from a reputable company of some form yet being sent from a free email address such as Gmail or Hotmail, or have an urgent message that you need to pay money towards something immediately.
If you feel like you’ve been sent some form of scam communication recently, you should report it to Action Fraud as soon as you can to prevent other people potentially falling victim to it.