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23 Apr 2020

Which? launches scam alerts as fraudsters exploit coronavirus crisis

Sign up to free scam alerts to get the latest on emerging scams, how to avoid them and the steps to take if you've lost money

Which? has launched a free email service revealing the latest scams, as fraudsters take advantage of the coronavirus outbreak.

Those who register will receive warnings and examples of scams straight to their inbox as we uncover them.

The alerts will include tips on how to spot scams and how they can be reported, keeping consumers one step ahead of the criminals.

We'll call out fake texts, emails and phone calls that claim to be from the government, banks and other organisations that people deal with on a daily basis.

We'll also give advice on how you can get your money back if you've been affected by a scam.

Coronavirus crisis is 'perfect storm' for scams

The alert service will cover all kinds of scams, from new phishing and smishing attempts, to dodgy pension schemes, to copycat websites and suspicious cold calls.

But its launch comes at a time when scammers have quickly taken advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to con people out of their money.

It's estimated £2m has already been lost to coronavirus scams in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to Action Fraud.

Many of the scams are targeting people online. The National Cyber Security Centre has identified 2,500 scams pretending to be official government message in the past seven weeks.

Some of the coronavirus scams we've heard about recently include:

  • Bogus phishing texts from HMRC claiming the taxman has been forced to issue refunds due to coronavirus, and providing a link for readers to 'calculate their refund'.
  • Fake messages purporting to be from the government, requesting people pay a fine for breaching the coronavirus lockdown rules.
  • Emails encouraging people to make financial decisionsand use their time during the coronavirus lockdown to invest in bitcoin.
  • Unsolicited calls from fraudsters offering to enrol vulnerable people on to coronavirus vaccine trials for a fee.

Gareth Shaw, Which? head of money, said: 'The coronavirus outbreak has created the perfect storm for scams, with fraudsters using callous tactics to exploit people's fears and vulnerabilities for their own financial gain.

'As new scams spring up daily, our alert service aims to help people protect themselves and loved ones.'

Take a look at some of the scams we've uncovered recently

Five tips to avoid scams

  • Contacted out of the blue Legitimate organisations never ask you for your bank details or payments out of the blue.
  • Personal details Never give cold callers your personal information. For example, don't give them your personal details to apply for refunds or government benefits on your behalf.
  • Transfer funds Banks will never call you to ask you to transfer your money into another bank account if they think your account security is at risk.
  • Pressurised to respond quickly Scammers will often want to push you to rush a decision and not take the time needed to think it through.
  • Take a moment If something seems odd, take a moment out to think it through. Check the details and ask a friend or relative for their opinion.

You can tell us about any scams you've come across on Which? Conversationor email us at scamwatch@which.co.uk.

For more advice on spotting scams and what to look out for, take a look at our guides to common types of scams.

Read the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?.