Police have issued fraud prevention advice against coronavirus related scams, as they warn more fraudsters will capitalise on public fears about the pandemic as it spreads.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have said fraudsters are luring people into disclosing personal information by posing as legitimate bank, police and health officials over the phone or through e-mails.
The force said that criminals are claiming to provide medical guidance, investment opportunities or a safe place to transfer or keep money using Covid-19 as a cover story.
Unsuspecting victims are then handing over financial details to the thieves or clicking on links which may contain dangerous malware.
GMP have urged the public to ask a friend or family member for advice before completing a purchase from an unknown company and install the latest software to protect their phones from threats.
Detective Superintendent Estelle Mathieson, Head of GMP’s Economic Crime and Cyber Unit, said: “There is currently a lot of publicity surrounding the coronavirus and it has come to our attention that fraudsters are using what is a time of uncertainty for many and exploiting innocent people out of their hard earned money.
“It is likely that nationally, scams of this type will rise as the virus situation continues, and GMP is committed to identifying and targeting these offenders as well as promoting advice to the public. The more information we can give people about fraud and how to protect themselves, the easier it will be to stop it from taking place.”
Victims in the UK have reported losses totalling over £800,000 since February, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
Ten of the twenty-one scams identified that month involved desperate buyers of face masks, with one person paying £15,000 for masks that were never delivered.
Other frauds involved emails and texts claiming to be from research organisations linked to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Experts have warned that fraudsters are adapting emails in an attempt to lure people to a fake website bearing an HM Revenue & Customs logo with the promise of a tax refund.
The website, which encourages victims to share their bank card number and personal details, claims that as a precaution against coronavirus, the government has set up a new tax refund programme.
Researchers at Mimecast, an online security company, have recorded hundreds of texts or emails containing a link that directs recipients to it, according to The Financial Times.