Another national lockdown combined with news of the Coronavirus vaccination roll-out has prompted fraudsters to create a raft of new scams designed to part people from their cash.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, has received several reports of people receiving an email or text saying its from the NHS about their eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine. The message sends you to a website which wants your bank details to confirm you’re eligible for the jab. Once you hand these over, money is stolen directly from your bank account. The NHS would never ask for your bank details and there is no charge for the vaccine, so if you receive an email asking for this information or telling you that there’s a charge, forward it to email@example.com. Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge.
If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Mike Haley, chief executive of fraud prevention organisation Cifas, said: ‘If you are suspicious of anybody contacting you, take a minute and think before parting with your money or information. Challenge the person contacting you and remember you can reject, refuse or ignore any requests you receive - only criminals would try to rush or panic you.”
Test and trace scams
The government’s Test and Trace system aims to ensure those who are showing symptoms of Coronavirus are tested quickly and that any contacts who’ve seen them recently are notified so that they can self-isolate.
Fraudsters have contacted people pretending to be from Test and Trace, asking them for personal information or bank details so they can steal money. Contract tracers will never ask you for bank account details, or request passwords or your PIN. Legitimate calls will be made from the number 0300 013 5000 or you’ll receive a text from "NHS".
Courier fraud cases have risen in recent months, so be on your guard for any suspicious telephone calls from criminals, pretending to be a police officer or bank official.
Victims are usually informed that their account has been comprised and that they should withdraw their money or hand over their debit card to a courier who will come to collect it. Criminals may also persuade the victim to transfer money to a ‘secure’ bank account, or hand over high value items, such as jewellery and watches.
Put the telephone down immediately if you receive this type of call. You bank or the police will never call and ask you to hand over information such as your PIN, or other personal details and nor will they send a courier to collect your card.
Watch out for tax scams
Tax scams are also on the rise as the January 31 deadline for filing 2019/20 tax returns looms. These usually involve scammers sending out texts and emails purporting to be from HMRC and asking recipients to hand over personal information, including bank details, so they can claim a 'refund' or pay outstanding tax to avoid legal action. Any information handed over is then used to access bank accounts.
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Fiona Fernie, a tax dispute resolution partner with accountancy firm Blick Rothenberg said “HMRC always issue thousands of SMS messages and emails as part of its annual self-assessment push to get people to get their returns in on time, and this year is no exception, but these can easily be confused with messages and emails from fraudsters offering tax rebates or tax refunds, or even threatening legal action if bogus amounts of outstanding tax are not paid immediately.”
HMRC will never send notifications of a tax rebate or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by text message. If you receive any suspicious emails requesting this information, forward them to HMRC’s phishing team at firstname.lastname@example.org and forward text messages to 60599.