Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams – Stay Alert!

Fraud is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but it’s really worth knowing what to watch out for.

Scammers are experts in deception and preying on our vulnerabilities. In times of crisis, such as a global pandemic, the fragile socio-economic environment can work in their favour. Since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified 21 reports of fraud where Coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses totalling over £800k.

These scams can take a number of forms. For example:

  • Fraudulent sellers offering protective masks that in the end will never get delivered.
  • Fake “cures” for coronavirus.
  • Fake insurance policies.
  • Transfers of pension funds to accounts that don’t really exist.
  • Tax refund scams.
  • “High return” investment opportunities, including investments in cryptoassets.

Tax refund scams are especially common at the moment. Researchers at cyber-security firm Mimecast flagged this scam a few weeks ago. The morning they detected it, they saw more than 200 examples in just a few hours. Victims receive phishing emails that claim to be from HMRC, if they click on “access your funds now”, it would take them to a fake government webpage, encouraging them to input all their financial and tax information.

How can you protect yourself against coronavirus scams?

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recommends the following:

You should…

  • Reject offers that come out of the blue.
  • Beware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online.
  • Use the FCA Register and Warning List to check who you are dealing with.
  • Do not click links or open emails from senders you don’t already know.
  • Avoid being rushed or pressured into making a decision.
  • If a firm calls you unexpectedly, use the contact details on the FCA Register to check that you’re dealing with the genuine firm.
  • Don’t give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details).

Think you’ve been a victim of a scam as a Coconut customer?

We’re here to help you!

You can…

  • Get in touch with our customer care team via the in-app chat.
  • Email us at support@getcoconut.com.
  • Call our emergency number: +44 (0) 808 169 9928.

Suspect you’ve seen a scam out in the wild?

Please do report it and help others avoid becoming victims. Call Action Fraud straight away on +44 (0) 300 123 2040, or the FCA Consumer Helpline on +44 (0) 800 111 6768.

Self employed people and small business owners can be an easy target for fraudsters. Has any of the above happened to you (or something else we haven’t mentioned)? We really sympathise! Some of these scams are very clever and only seem obvious in hindsight.

To help others learn what to watch out for, feel free to share your experiences in this thread.

3 Likes

Lots of these scams flying around at the moment it seems… I got this one just this morning. Some can worryingly seem legitimate so be careful…

Has anyone else had any? Would love to see some of the others going around so we can help each other avoid falling fowl of them.

1 Like

This is another one I had last week, suggesting there were issues with the payment of my tv license

1 Like

Its worth noting that HMRC would never disclose tax figures by email or text message. Main form of secure information is via your GOV.UK online service. So if you do receive any messages like the above please do not click on them.

If you are unsure always check with your accountant as they will be pretty aware of the HMRC comms that are communicated to businesses and individuals.

2 Likes

I had this one in March, as an SMS surprisingly. And the same now repeated more recently as emails.

As said by all before, vital not to click anywhere without double, triple checking even.

3 Likes

I had quite a terrifying moment earlier today that I wanted to share in case anyone else comes across the same thing.

I got a call from HMRC, completely out of the blue, saying I had been under paying taxes and was under investigation for tax evasion. WHAT?!

I was told to call was being recorded and asked to stay quiet whilst the situation and the consequences were explained to me.

(It was when she said there was a warrant out for my arrest that I thought hang on a minute…)

After about 15 minutes of having very convincing legal speak thrown at me whilst being asked to hold my questions for later, I was given an ultimatum:

  1. Contest the charges in court (although I was likely to be taken into custody any minute, so I was told) which could cost me upwards of £30,000.

  2. Pay my unpaid taxes (£1,850) over the phone then and there.

Aha!

I hung up at that point, knowing full well that this was a just thoroughly executed scam. Unbelievable the efforts they go to! And worryingly, despite knowing this happens a lot there was definitely a moment when I thought it could be legitimate. I really hope they haven’t managed to scam other people this way. It’s really very intimidating.

Has anyone else had this? A colleague mentioned they had this exact experience some time ago, so it sounds like it’s not a new tactic. But definitely one to watch out for!

1 Like

I’m sorry you had to experience that, Ness. It does sound terrifying.

Unfortunately this is not a new type of fraud, I’ve seen it quite a few times. Fraudsters can be very convincing.

As Jamie noted, HMRC will never disclose tax figures by email, text or on the phone. If you’re unsure, take your time and check online on the GOV.UK website.

This one is worrying. They’re getting better at making them look official. At least twice a week I’m having a phone call from my mum saying there’s something about TV license in her email.

I feel that the agencies being targeted should take more action to protect customers rather than a “email our phishing or spoof email”.

I really appreciate the Coconut community getting behind this and supporting each other.

1 Like

Hey @ryev - it really is worrying. I get emails about my tv license every week too! They are relentless. We’ll keep sharing any others we come across.

1 Like