The number of scams and fraud incidents reported to Action Fraud since the coronavirus outbreak has increased by 400 percent.
Updated figures show there have been 105 reports made to the organisation since February 1, with total losses reaching nearly £970,000.
The first report relating to coronavirus was received on February 9, with 20 more reported throughout the month.
Since then, there have been 46 reports between the March 1 and March 13, and 38 reports in just four days between March 14 and March 18.
The majority are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived.
Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.
Action Fraud has also received more than 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails.
A spokesperson from Action Fraud said: “These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details.”
Fraudsters may claim to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO), and may provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area.
However, to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.
Links to a fake websites are also being emailed to people and some fraudsters are sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
There’s also been reports of fake HMRC emails offering tax refunds.
Superintendent Sanjay Andersen, Head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said: “Fraudsters will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people.
“This includes exploiting tragedies and global emergencies.
“The majority of scams we are seeing relate to the online sale of protective items, and items that are in short supply across the country, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We’re advising people not to panic and to think about the purchase they are making.
“When you’re online shopping it’s important to do your research and look at reviews of the site you are buying from.”
Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, said there’s already been cases of fraudsters using the pandemic to scam people, especially those looking to buy medical supplies online.
He said: “Emails offering fake medical support are being sent targeting people who may be vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home.
“They try to lure you in with offers that look too good to be true, or appeals for you to support those who are ill or bogus charities.
“The advice is simple, think very carefully before you hand over your money, and don’t give out your personal details unless you are sure who you are dealing with.
“If you think you have been a victim please report to Action Fraud.”
Advice from the organisation states:
- Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to them
- If you’re shopping online and making a purchase from someone you don’t know, carry out checks and ask family or friends for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
- Protect your devices from the latest threats by installing the latest software and app updates.