Beware of scams during the Covid-19 outbreak

Karen Ramoo ,
8 Apr 2020

A scam is a type of fraud where someone steals your money or information. The most common scams are online, but you can be targeted by post or with a text message or a phone call. Scams are among the most prevalent types of crime in the UK, and coronavirus is creating a perfect environment for fraudsters to thrive using a range of tactics.

As Scottish communities deal with uncertainty and isolation, there is a rapidly increasing variety of scams related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Law enforcement, government and private sectors partners are working together to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to profit on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scammers are sophisticated, opportunistic and will try to get personal details or money from victims in many ways. They tend to target people who are more vulnerable or susceptible to being scammed, particularly in the current climate with many more people being at home. 

There has already been a high volume of scams reported across Scotland with scamsters and fraudsters coming up with new and inventive ways to obtain money. They may contact you online, by phone (including text), post or in person so they can obtain your personal details to get money from you or steal your details so they can pretend to be you.

Criminals are also using Government and Police branding to try to trick people, including reports of using HMRC branding to make fake offers of financial support through unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.

With most of the country now working from home it means more people are likely to be vulnerable to scams and it is anticipated that there will be a surge in phishing scams or calls claiming to be from government departments offering grants, tax rebates, or compensation.

The Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System CIFAS have issued advice to consumers on how to avoid falling victim to coronavirus scams, including:

  • Be skeptical if you receive an email, text or WhatsApp message about the coronavirus
  • Never click on any attachments or links from someone you don’t know
  • Never provide personal data such as your full name, address or date of birth, or bank details
  • Don't be pressured into donating money, and never make donations by cash, gift cards or money transfer agents such as Western Union or MoneyGram (offer less protection if something goes wrong)

As a rule, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and it is always worth exercising extra caution just to be sure. Stop and think about what is being asked and if you are unsure do not do it until you are satisfied that who you are in contact with are genuine.

Coronavirus scams can be difficult to recognise, the Citizens Advice Bureau have produced a helpful information page on what to look out for which also includes a general scam checking tool.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, speak to your bank immediately and report any fraud to Police Scotland on 101. You can also report all scams to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.

Click here to find examples of current scams to look out for.