Coronavirus (COVID-19) scams
Scammers and criminals are looking for opportunities to scam people as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
On this page you will find information on:
- vaccine fraud (added 14 January 2021)
- door step scams
- online scams
- phishing emails and texts
- phone scams
- NHS test and trace service
- other scams
- more information
Criminals are using the coronavirus vaccine as a way to target the public by tricking them to hand over cash or financial details.
They are sending text messages letting people know they are eligible for the vaccine or phoning people directly pretending to be from the NHS, or local pharmacy.
The NHS will never:
- ask for payment - the vaccine is free
- ask for your bank details
- arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
- ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport.
If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to email@example.com.
Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge.
If you have any information relating to vaccine fraud you can stay anonymous by contacting Crimestoppers COVID Fraud Hotline. Email covidfraudhotline.org or phone 0800 587 5030.
Current door step coronavirus scams include:
- knocking on your door claiming to be from the health authority, offering to do a coronavirus test or take your temperature
- offering to run your errands, collect prescriptions or do your shopping. They may knock on your door or put a card through the letterbox.
- check who is at the door before you open it and keep a safe two metre distance. Ask to see ID for any visitors from a gas, water or electricity supplier to check they’re one of your providers. Do not invite anyone into your house if you’re unsure about a cold caller
- refuse to give them any money or personal details. Do not buy goods or sign up to services at your door. If they provide a service that interests you, ask them to leave information for you to take away and research their company online or speak to friends or neighbours for advice
- phone the police on 101
- ask them to leave. If they do not leave, contact the police on 999.
Current online coronavirus scams include:
- websites offering protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and tickets for events, which never arrive
- dating services where the other person is a fake account and is using the service to get enough information to steal your identity or gain your trust to ask for money
- loan scams where you're asked to pay an upfront fee for a loan
- fraudsters creating a bogus charity and taking the proceeds from fundraising
- websites selling fake medicines and devices - more about the #FakeMeds campaign.
Some tactics being used by fraudsters in phishing emails include:
- pretending to be from a research group that mimics the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area. But 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
- providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates
- sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn
- pretending to be from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website which harvests their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing. There are reports of people receiving similar text messages
- emails sent to landlords claiming to be from the council's Private Rented Scheme asking for
- pretending to be from the council, about a Universal Credit, Council Tax Reduction or benefits claim.
Tactics used in fraudulent text (SMS) messages include:
- pretending to be from GOV.UK, issuing fines for leaving your house
- offering parents free school meals for their children in return for their bank details.
Report phishing emails
If you get an email:
- check if it’s from one of your home service providers such as gas, broadband or insurance
- research them online before you buy anything
- speak to your friends, family or neighbours if you’re ever unsure about an email selling you a product or service that you’re interested in.
If you receive a phishing email delete it. Do not click on the link. You can report phishing emails to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS).
Forward suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)
Scammers are phoning Medway residents claiming to help with Council Tax debts during the pandemic.
National Trading Standards is predicting a rise in scam phone calls as lockdown eases.
If you get a phone call:
- do not give any bank details over the phone
- take their contact details and website address if they appear genuine but do not sign up to anything before doing research
- end the call if you do not trust the caller.
The NHS test and trace service has been set up to alert people who have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus symptoms.
There have been reports about scammers contacting people by text message, email and phone.
The test and trace service will not:
- ask for bank account details
- ask for any passwords or PIN numbers or ask you to set up any passwords or PIN numbers
- ask for a payment
- ask you to buy a product
- ask for social media identities or login details
- ask you to download any software onto your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else
- ask you to call a premium rate number to speak to the NHS, for example, those starting 09 or 087
- disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts
- provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms
- ask you to visit any website that does not belong to the government or NHS.
If you are asked these type of questions, you should report it to Action Fraud.
The test and trace service will only ask you for information found on the contact tracing website. This will include your full name, date of birth and details of any symptoms you may have.
If you have tested positive for coronavirus you will either receive a call, text or email from NHS test and trace. This will have instructions on how to share details of the people you have been in close contact with.
If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will be contacted in the same ways and asked about symptoms.
You will only ever be called from the number 0300 013 5000 or receive a text from NHS.
Find out how test and trace works.
Distance learning courses
There has been an increase in demand for distance learning courses. This may be because people are working from home or they would like to learn a new skill during lockdown.
This may provide a scamming opportunity.
Before enrolling on an online course do some research to make sure it is not a scam.
UV sterilising wands
The National Intelligence Unit have highlighted a potential threat from UV sterilising wands. A variety of electronic devices may be released into the market. The wands being sold claim the use of UV light will disinfect and kill germs, viruses and bacteria.
The actual effectiveness of these types of devices is unknown as limited research has been done.
The National Cyber Security Centre has issued a warning to fans who are planning to stream football games. They have warned that online hackers could break into accounts to carry out phishing scams.
Find out how to secure your online streaming accounts and subscriptions.
A scammer may try to approach you on your doorstep, by post, over the phone or online. They’ll often pretend to be someone they’re not, or make misleading offers of services or investments.
Always question unexpected requests for your personal or financial information. Never give anyone you don’t know cash up front or your bank card or PIN.
For more advice, email email@example.com or phone the National Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.
Find out about staying safe online.
Find out how to check if something might be a scam.
More information about scams and fraud.