Coronavirus has seen planes grounded, bars boarded up and stadiums emptied.
But one line of business has been booming since the outbreak began – scamming.
On Wednesday the banking lobby group U.K. Finance said fraudsters had been taking advantage of the pandemic, preying on the financial concerns of a worried public.
The swindlers are after personal and financial information which could put people’s purses and privacy in jeopardy, it said.
U.K. Finance gave MarketWatch a list of the top tactics being used by coronavirus, which range from dodgy dating profiles to get-rich-quick investment schemes. Here’s what to watch out for.
Fake financial support
Dubious dealers are imitating government officials and sending emails offering grants to unsuspecting victims worth sometimes as much as £7,500 ($9,708). When victims click through on hyperlinks they are taken to sites which steal personal and financial information.
Further playing on the financial woes of weary consumers, criminals are also advertising made-up tax breaks, unemployment support, and access to non-existent ‘Covid-19 relief funds’.
These tactics are all designed to lure people into paying out or sacrificing valuable private information and use advanced techniques to appear legitimate.
U.K. finance said one of the most shocking scams it has seen involves phishing emails, those that hope to trick customers into giving up personal or financial information, being sent under the pretence of the U.K.’s coronavirus testing and tracing system.
Emails are being sent out claiming the recipient has been in contact with a coronavirus patient, only to take them to a website which will steal their information or infect their computer with a virus.
U.K. finance also said unscrupulous traders are advertising hand sanitisers and face masks, which have been in short supply during the pandemic, that actually do not even exist.
Adapting to life under lockdown, which has seen streaming subscriptions surge and driven demand for dating apps, has presented an opportunity for fraudsters to exploit too.
Criminals are creating fake profiles on dating sites to manipulate victims into handing over money, often adopting the identities of real people in the process.
Fake emails pretending to be from streaming services have also been a popular tactic, asking customers to update their payment details before stealing their credit card information.
And finally fraudsters are taking advantage of turbulent financial markets, using social media to advertise fake investment opportunities urging victims to ‘take advantage of the financial downturn’. Would-be investors are then exposed to fake companies and fake websites.
U.K. Finance offered three steps from its Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign to protect yourself from opportunistic scammers taking advantage of the pandemic are: stop, challenge and protect.
Take a moment to consider the safety of parting with any money or information, question the legitimacy of any emails or advertisements, and contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed.
Some telltale signs of a scam include unexpected website addresses, requests for information, random phone calls, too-good-to-be-true discounts and spelling and grammar mistakes.
“During this pandemic we have seen criminals using sophisticated methods to callously exploit people’s financial concerns, impersonating trusted organisations . . . . to trick them into giving away their money or information,” said Katy Worobec, managing director of economic crime at U.K. Finance.