Losses from Covid-19 scams ‘pass £5m mark’ in UK

Action Fraud figures show £5,142,265-worth of fraud has been reported since February.

Losses from Covid-19 scams ‘pass £5m mark’ in UK Getty Images

Reported losses from coronavirus-related fraud have passed the £5m mark.

Action Fraud figures show £5,142,265-worth of fraud has been reported since February, with the number of reports totalling more than 2100.

More than 11,500 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing scams have been made to Action Fraud as fraudsters impersonate a variety of organisations dealing with measures to limit the spread of Covid-19.

TSB and fraud prevention body Cifas have identified the most common Covid-19 scams Britons have been targeted with during the pandemic:

  • Covid-19 track and trace scams, which include fraudulent apps, emails and texts telling people they have been in contact with Covid-19 and to click a link or call a number.
  • Home working scams when fraudsters may impersonate payroll departments and internet providers.
  • Bereavement scams when criminals may contact people to claim money has been left by a deceased relative and will ask for bank details.
  • Covid-19 phishing quizzes on social media that trick people into answering questions that give their personal details to fraudsters.
  • Pension scams when fraudsters convince victims to transfer their pension pots to criminals, or to release funds.
  • Council tax refund scams when criminals text or email impersonating local authorities and central Government. Fraudsters promise a refund but steal bank account details and money.

TSB offers customers a fraud refund guarantee and said since its introduction in April 2019, 99% of fraud cases have been reimbursed.

It said it has rejected cases when customers were found to be complicit.

TSB said scams that have been reimbursed include a customer in their 60s from rural Scotland who received £40,000 back after being persuaded to transfer money into a “safe account”.

Another Scots customer in their 30s was tricked by a scam on an online marketplace involving a bike.

The fraudster claimed to be an NHS worker who was self-isolating, which led to the customer paying £200 via bank transfer.

TSB reimbursed the victim and the listing was removed from the website.

A customer in their 50s from the north-west of England was reimbursed £102 after falling victim to a doorstep scam when a fraudster offered to do their shopping but instead withdrew cash from their card without consent.

Ashley Hart, head of fraud at TSB, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has seen fraudsters unleash an unprecedented wave of attacks across the UK with complex new scams targeting people at an already difficult time.”

Mike Haley, chief executive of Cifas, said: “Fraudsters are using the coronavirus pandemic to steal money and personal information from innocent members of the public, and we are hearing of new and emerging scams on a daily basis.

“More than ever, people need to be hyper-vigilant of fraudulent activity and not let criminals take advantage of their fear and uncertainty during this difficult time.”

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “Some councils have seen a significant surge in reports of scams by criminals exploiting coronavirus fears to prey on vulnerable and older people self-isolating.

“People need to be cautious. If something doesn’t seem right or sounds too good to be true, don’t hesitate to end a phone call, bin a letter, delete an email or shut the door.” 

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