COVID-19 scams to be aware of

Here are some scams that we have been made aware of:

COVID-19 businesses support grant scam email

We're aware of some emails being circulated to local businesses asking for bank details to send business financial support.

The fake email uses an official-looking GOV.UK heading but is a scam aimed at extracting bank details from firms.

If you own a business please be aware that:

  • central government (GOV.UK) is not managing the grant process for the borough, Barnsley Council is.
  • we will only ask for bank details via the secure forms on our website.

Free school meals scam

Emails have been sent to some parents stating the following: ‘As schools will be closing, if you’re entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we’ll make sure you’re supported’.

This is a scam email and is not official. We urge parents that if you receive any emails like this, please do not respond and delete it immediately.

Cancelling subscriptions scam

Emails stating that Virgin Media is cancelling subscription charges in light of COVID-19. Recipients are asked to click on a link to prevent them from being charged.

There have also been seen several reports relating to phishing abuse in other brands, for example TV licencing phishing attempts, BT Sport and Amazon phishing emails.

Government tracking

Fraudsters have been sending scam texts and WhatsApp messages telling people they have been fined for going out during the coronavirus lockdown. These messages are fraudulent. If you receive a message like this then do not click on the link and delete the message immediately.

Remember that your phone isn’t being tracked when you leave your home to get exercise and supplies.

Impersonation scams

Fraudsters have been targeting people working from home with impersonation scams.

Impersonation emails, texts and WhatsApp messages from seemingly trusted organisations such as the government, World Health Organization (WHO), or government departments such as HMRC. Many of these are offering financial aid, refunds, or false health advice.  

Remember to never click links or download PDFs from these emails as attachments may infect your device with malware that captures your personal information.

IT desk and security scams

Fraudsters have been pretending to be CEOs of IT departments to get information out of employees. Employees offer up access to their device and share their screen information with the criminals who then take banking and personal information which can be used to steal the victim’s funds and identity.

Whilst working from home, ensure your security settings are up to date on all your devices. Never share your screen with anyone you cannot confirm is legitimate, and if you receive an email urging you to download any updates to your device then call your IT department to confirm validity.

Other scams to be aware of

  • Home cleaning services.
  • People impersonating healthcare workers, claiming to be offering ‘home-testing’ for coronavirus. This is a scam and these kits are not currently available to buy.
  • Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus and they're just after your personal and bank details.
  • There are lots of fake products available to buy online that say they can protect you or cure coronavirus designed to take your money.
  • There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus but instead, they lock your phone and demand a ransom.
  • Your bank or the police will never ask for your bank details over the phone.
  • People offering to do your shopping or collecting medication and asking for money upfront and then disappearing.
  • People offering miracle cures or vaccines for coronavirus – there is no specific treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19). Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms until you recover.

Hoax NHS website

Action Fraud has become aware of a hoax copy of the NHS website. The spoofed site includes harmful links luring people who are after COVID-19-related health tips. Once a link is clicked a pop-up box appears asking if you want to save a file called ‘COVID19’. If saved, your device is infected with malware which can steal passwords, credit card data, cookies from popular browsers, crypto wallets files and screenshots. When searching for a website always type the website address directly into the web browser, rather than following links.

Fake news

Fake news articles have been circulating the internet and the press claiming remedies, cures and false advice around coronavirus. Read trusted sources such as GOV.UK and the World Health Organisation websites.