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Warning as fraudsters take advantage of coronavirus confusion

26 Mar 2020
  • Residents warned of coronavirus related scam emails and texts

  • Fraudsters are posing as health organisations, UK government and Hertfordshire County Council

  • If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime report to actionfraud.police.uk 

Hertfordshire Constabulary is warning residents to be cautious as a number of corona virus related scams have been reported.

Unfortunately fraudsters are using the current situation to take advantage of those who are most vulnerable. Action Fraud recorded a 400% increase in virus related fraud this month. 

One scam claims that people can donate to the efforts of the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control to combat the virus, by asking people to pay via a bitcoin link. Another scam appears to be from the government website Gov.uk, claiming that people are entitled to tax and national insurance refunds. Both of these arrive in email form or as posts on social media, with links to click for more information.

Reports have also been received in other parts of the UK of text messages being received from Gov.uk stating that the recipient has breached regulations and will be sent a fine in the post. Another fraudulent email claiming to be from Hertfordshire County Council asks parents of children who receive free school meals for their bank details. Coronavirus-themed phishing emails with infected attachments containing fictitious 'safety measures' have also been targeting people in the UK. 

If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk. Alternatively you can contact herts.police.uk/report, speak to an operator in our Force Communications Room via online web chat at herts.police.uk/contact or call our non-emergency number 101. If a crime is in progress or someone’s life is in danger, call 999 immediately.

Chief Inspector Sam Khanna from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Serious Fraud and Cyber-crime Unit, said: “People need to remain vigilant during this period of change and confusion. Many people are sharing posts, advice and forwarding on attachments. We all need to be vigilant and remember not to click on suspicious attachments or links. Phishing scams aim to trick you into revealing your personal data or lure you to a fake website that looks like your bank or other online accounts. Sometimes these emails or posts can be very convincing. Never click on links in emails or download attachments unless you are 100 per cent sure they are legitimate.

“It’s also really important to make sure you keep security software up to date, always install the latest updates on your computers and mobile devices to protect yourself from the latest threats.”

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Getting an email or text out of the blue asking you for your personal or financial info? Don't take the bait!
  • Messages asking you to "confirm" or "verify" your personal or financial details are a common lure used by criminals. Don't get hooked.
  • Phishing reports to @Actionfrauduk show that telecoms companies, tech brands and Government departments are the most commonly spoofed sectors.
  • Don't respond to messages or calls that ask for your personal or financial info.
  • Create strong passwords using three random words. For example such as a fruit, a colour, and make of car i.e. Yellowappleford1! Use passwords with over 15 characters, using upper and lower case, numbers and symbols.
  • Use a different password for every login and use either a password manager or if you don’t want to/can’t do that write them down if you can’t remember them. If you do write them down don’t leave your password list in plain sight.
  • Use two factor authentication wherever this is an option, which requires two different methods to prove your identity before you can access a service. This is usually a password and another method, such as a code sent to your mobile phone.

For more simple tips on how to protect yourself online, visit cyberaware.gov.uk.

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