Coronavirus scam warning as fraud prevention service Cifas says criminals posing as NHS Test and Trace contact tracers

Criminals are pretending to be contact tracers working for the NHS Test and Trace scheme in a bid to access the homes of unsuspecting members of the public.

By Georgina Morris
Saturday, 20th June 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd June 2020, 10:49 am

The scam is among the latest to be highlighted by Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, as it warns the public to stay vigilant of the ever-changing tactics that scammers are using to extract money and information.

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Raising awareness of such scams is a key strand of the Yorkshire Evening Post's Stop the Scammers campaign, which aims to educate people on spotting the signs and where support is available if you fall victim to fraud.

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Nick Downing, Chief Intelligence Officer for Cifas, said: "Months after lockdown started, and we still see criminals targeting homeworkers and preying on people’s fear and anxieties over coronavirus.

"Fraudsters are continually changing their tactics, and so people need to stay alert and always be cautious when buying products online or responding to unsolicited emails and texts.

"Never be afraid to challenge requests for personal or financial information – no matter how legitimate the sender appears to be, and never feel rushed or pressured into a decision that you may later regret."

COVID-19 home testing scam

Criminals have been contacting the public claiming to be NHS contact tracers, according to fraud prevention service Cifas. Picture: PA

There have been a number of COVID-19 testing scams circulating during the pandemic, and this week Cifas has learned that criminals have been contacting the public claiming to be NHS contact tracers offering a home visit to carry out a test. The scam is designed to gain access to people’s homes to steal goods.

Cifas is reminding people that the NHS will never ask for bank details or payments, or ask you to set up a password or PIN number over the phone. They will also never ask you to call them on a premium rate number, such as those starting 09 or 087. For more information on the NHS Test & Trace service visit their website here.

The scams highlighted this week are:

Universal Credit scams

The Yorkshire Evening Post's Stop the Scammers campaign aims to raise awareness of the tactics used by fraudsters.

The public continue to be targeted by fraudsters offering government loans and grants linked to claims for Universal Credit. Many of these scammers use professional looking social media profiles and websites, with testimonials and government logos.

Remember that the government will never ask for personal or bank details over text or email. Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of fraud should report it to Action Fraud, and also speak to their local Jobcentre or the Department of Work and Pensions that pay their benefit.

Hackers target Bluetooth users

With the rise in large numbers of people working remotely, fraudsters are increasingly finding multiple ways of hacking people’s devices using Bluetooth to gather important data such as texts, documents, photos, mobile provider information. They are also attacking users with spam advertisements and in some cases, bugging devices.

Cifas is warning people to avoid using Bluetooth to communicate sensitive information such as passwords and documents, and always encrypt files before transferring them. Users should only leave their Bluetooth in ‘discoverable’ mode when they are pairing a new peripheral with their device, and remember to turn Bluetooth off when not being used.

Southwest Airlines Facebook scam

Facebook users are being targeted by fake advertisements purporting to be from Southwest Airlines and offering free round-trip flights for the first 500 people who share and comment on their posts. This is a common scam often seen on social media sites and is designed to steal personal and financial details.

There are currently a large number of fake adverts, quizzes and offers of giveaways circulating on social media, all of which are put together to harvest details that can be used for identity theft. Cifas is reminding people never to share personal or financial details on social media, or if they are approached via unsolicited calls, texts or emails.

Anyone that believes they have been the victim of a scam is advised contact their bank or financial service provider immediately and report the fraud to Action Fraud website on 0300 123 2040.

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