Police are issuing a further warning to residents about scam text messages claiming individuals have been in contact with someone who has the Omicron COVID variant.
Nine Hertfordshire residents have now lost more than £260,000, with several clicking a link in the text to apply for a test kit and have been duped into giving personal information. Some disclosed bank details as they are asked to pay for postage and packaging.
Others who realised they were being duped, after providing their details, have called their bank and cancelled their cards. However, they were then contacted by fraudsters claiming to be from the victim’s bank. The bogus caller claims there has been a fraudulent transaction on the victim’s account and directs them to set a new account up and transfer their money to protect it. The fraudsters are able to spoof genuine telephone numbers of some banks, making the calls appear legitimate.
Please remember NHS Test and Trace contact tracers will never:
ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product of any kind
ask for any details about your bank account
Your bank and the police will never ring and ask you to verify your PIN, withdraw cash or purchase high-value goods. They’ll also never come to your home to collect your card, cash or purchased items. If you get a call like this, end the call.
If you get a call from your bank or the police, make sure you know who the person is before handing over any personal details. You can do this by calling your bank (the number on the back of your card) or the police via 101 on a different phone line.
To get a different line, use a phone owned by a family member, friend or neighbour. This is because scammers can keep phone lines open after pretending to hang up. So while you think you’re making a new phone call, the line is still open to the scammer, who pretends to be someone from your bank or the police.
Detective Inspector Pete Hankins, from the Serious Fraud and Cyber Unit, said: “Fraudsters are very quick to adapt their tactics to take advantage of circumstances, like the pandemic. If you receive any unsolicited messages or calls, you should always be sceptical. Avoid clicking links in text and email messages, check out the website directly via a search engine to make sure you are visiting a genuine site.”
Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or texts from senders you don’t know.
Never give out personal information, financial details or passwords in response to an email, text or phone call without verifying that the person is who they claim to be.
Block any numbers that arouse suspicion.
Set up spam filters on all of your accounts.
Always go to a website directly, by typing out the address yourself, when logging into an account.
Keep an eye out for numerous spelling mistakes in messages, these are normally linked to phishing emails and texts.
Forward suspicious texts to Action Fraud’s text number 7726, for free.
Call 119 to check with a genuine NHS professional if you have any doubts.
Scams can come in many forms and is an incredibly sophisticated crime, making it more difficult to distinguish genuine messages from the fake.
We all make mistakes and these days the scams can be incredibly convincing. If you think you, or someone you know has been a victim of online fraud:
You can use our community voice platform ‘echo’ to let us know what you think we should be prioritising in your area. Your feedback will help towards shaping our local policing priorities, initiatives and campaigns. Visit bit.ly/herts-echo and tell us what you think.
Please don’t use echo to report an ongoing crime or incident. Remember: if you believe a crime is in progress or someone is in danger, always dial 999.
To receive police messages about a range of topics including burglaries, scams and missing people in your local area, sign up to OWL (opens in a new window) or download the ‘OWL crime alerts’ app from your app store.