At York E-Safe, we want to help you keep safe online. That’s why we have set up our advice and support service on staying safe online. Recently, there’s been a significant rise in online scams related to the Coronavirus outbreak. Here are some tips to help you spot and avoid these scams, so you can stay safer online.
Common types of scams
Falsely representing health organisations – Scammers posing as the NHS, WHO or Public Health England may offer cures, tests or other COVID-19 information.
Websites selling fraudulent products – Sites might offer hand sanitiser, self-testing kits, face masks, or other in-demand products that never arrive.
Posing as government sources – Some scams claim to issue updates and payments on behalf of HMRC and Gov.uk
Fraudulent financial offers – Scammers may pose as banks, investors or debt collectors, with offers designed to steal financial information.
Fake charitable donation requests – Requests for COVID-19 donations to charities, hospitals and the NHS should be checked carefully.
How to avoid scams
Scammers are taking advantage of the increase in COVID-19 communications by disguising their scams as legitimate messages about the virus. Alongside emails, scammers may also use text messages, automated calls and malicious websites to reach you.
Visit authoritative websites directly
Be cautious of requests for personal or financial information
If you receive an unsolicited request for information, take extra time to evaluate the message. Scammers will often ask you to input login information, or share bank details and addresses with them. They may also request payment via bank transfer or virtual currency, like Bitcoin.
Donate directly through charities
Some scams take advantage of goodwill, requesting donations for COVID-19 relief efforts. Do some research to make sure the charity is legitimate – like checking if they are registered with the Charity Commission or if you have seen their work first hand.
Scammers also pose as legitimate charities. To be more confident your money will reach a charity, you can donate directly through their website – rather than clicking a link sent to you.
Double check links and email addresses before clicking
Fake links often imitate established websites by adding extra words or letters. If it says something like “click here,” hover over the link or long press the text to check the URL for mistakes – being careful not to click it. Misspelled words or random letters and numbers in the URL or email address may also indicate a scam.
Search to see if it’s been reported
If somebody has sent you a fraudulent message, it’s likely they’ve sent it to other people as well. Copy and paste the email address, phone number, or most suspicious portion of the message into a search engine to check if it’s been reported by others.
Add an extra layer of security to your accounts
For extra protection online, add two-factor authentication – also known as 2-step verification – to your accounts. This provides another layer of security by requiring two steps to gain access to your account: for example, something you know (your password) and something you physically have on hand (like your phone or a security key).
Report it to Action Fraud
If you see something suspicious, or think you’ve been scammed, report it at ActionFraud.police.UK or by calling 0300 123 2040.