Be on guard for COVID-19 scams

London Trading Standards are warning Londoners to be on guard against scams related to the COVID-19 coronavirus after details were published by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) this week.

Scam emails

It has come to light that emails claiming to be from the government are offering a tax rebate to support people through this challenging period.

The emails, which look official, inform the recipient of the rebate amount and request that they click a link to receive it. At the link, the recipient is asked to fill in personal details, including their credit card number and address. These details allow the scammer to take money directly from the recipient’s bank account.

Other email-based scams include one claiming to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The email, which claims to hold crucial coronavirus safety advice, has an attachment which downloads a keylogger, allowing scammers to follow the online movements of the user, and gain access to their device and personal details.

Citizens Advice (CitA) has launched advice on coronavirus scams. CitA has an excellent scam checker, and you can access it by clicking here.

Phone Apps

There are reports of several ‘coronavirus update’ apps, which claim to provide updates on the virus. The fake app contains a form of ‘ransomware’, named CovidLock, which upon downloading, locks the phone and displays a message demanding that the user pay a sum of money to unlock it. These apps are available to download from various unofficial websites.

Phone users are advised to only download apps directly from the Apple Store, or Android Play Store as these are safety checked by the platforms.

Katherine Hart-Place, CTSI Joint Lead Officer for Doorstep Crime, said: “It is despicable that there are people who are willing to extort money at this critical time. Unfortunately; all businesses and consumers alike are at risk. We must be extra cautious at this time and always be aware of the cyber threats that could put our IT infrastructure at risk.”

For trusted news and advice on COVID-19 coronavirus, check for updates from the Department of Health and Social Care in the UK, Public Health England and the World Health Organisation (WHO

CTSI Chief Executive, Leon Livermore, said: “It is abhorrent that unscrupulous individuals are using this difficult time as an opportunity to immiserate others further. Consumers should now be extra vigilant, and aware of these new scams that take many forms. The general rule of scams applies – if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

“CTSI is monitoring these developments and will update the public as we receive further intelligence. In the meantime, the public should follow the official government advice, and take all necessary precautions”