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27 Mar 2020

Coronavirus scam: look out for fake lockdown fine texts

Latest coronavirus scam threatens a fine for leaving home - but what can the police do to enforce the lockdown?

Don't believe bogus text messages saying you've been fined for stepping outside during the coronavirus lockdown.

It is the latest in a series of scams related to the virus that claims to be from the UK Government.

This sinister scam claims that your movements have been monitored through your phone, and that you must pay a fine or face a more severe penalty.

Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) lead officer Katherine Hart advises that 'Anyone who receives this text should ignore it. It is simply another ruse to steal the payment details of users.

'In all of these cases, do not click or tap any links that these messages ask you to.'

You can keep up to date on our latest coverage over on our coronavirus advice hub.

Video: How can I spot a coronavirus scam?

Which? Computing editor, Kate Bevan, talks you through how to spot a coronavirus scam.

Can the government use my phone data?

The Information Comissioners Office (ICO) - the UK's privacy watchdog - has said the government can legally use personal data from mobile phones to track and monitor behaviour if it helps fight the spread of coronavirus.

Importantly it will be anonymous location and usage data that can be used to create movement maps, with a 12- to 24-hour delay, to discover whether the public are abiding by lockdown rules, and not information on specific individuals.

What can the police really do to enforce the lockdown?

To slow the spread of Covid-19 it's important we all follow the government's lockdown rules and only leave our homes for 'very limited purposes':

  • shopping for basic necessities as little as possible
  • one form of outdoor exercise a day
  • medical needs or to care for the vulnerable
  • to travel to and from work when 'absolutely necessary'.

In reality, the police can order members of the public to go home or leave an area, and they have the power to disperse a group, using 'reasonable force', and can make arrests if someone refuses to comply.

Those who ignore the tougher restrictions could be hit with a £60 fine initially - reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days - and another for £120 for a second offence.

Read more:the latest Coronavirus scams - how to spot them and stop them