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Coronavirus: travel scam warning

Travel cancellations bring more opportunity for fraud, warns Cifas, the UK fraud prevention membership body. Cifas is warning people to be vigilant on travel scams after travel firm Tui and flight operator Jet2 said that they are to cancel all planned travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cifas says that it has seen a sharp rise in holidaymakers being contacted by criminals purporting to be from travel companies, tour operators and insurers offering to refund or rebook cancelled holidays. Fraudsters have also set up fake websites offering to claim holiday refunds and compensation on behalf of holidaymakers.

Mike Haley, CEO of Cifas, pictured, said: ‘Fraudsters are always quick to find new ways to trick people into parting with their money or personal information, and the coronavirus pandemic is giving them additional opportunities to take advantage of people’s uncertainty and fears.

‘If your holiday has been cancelled and you are contacted by someone claiming to be from an airline or travel company offering to refund or rebook your trip, then be very cautious. Take a moment to stop and think before you give anyone your bank details or personal information, and if you receive a suspicious text message about your holiday then report it to your network provider by forwarding it to 7726.

‘If you remain unsure, then contact the party you booked your holiday with directly, and do not use the contact information or links in an email or text message from someone claiming to be your holiday provider.’

Cifas advises that anyone that believes they have been the victim of a scam must contact their bank or financial service provider at once and report the fraud to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud’s contact centre is however providing ‘a reduced service’.

Meanwhile, UK and US officials say that malicious cyber actors are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic for their own objectives. In the UK, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has detected more UK government branded scams relating to COVID-19 than any other subject. For a joint advisory issued by the NCSC and CISA, visit the NCSC website.

Phishing attempts often come from what appears to be a trustworthy sender, such as the ‘World Health Organisation’, or with a subject line such as “2019-nCov: Coronavirus outbreak in your city (Emergency)”. Attackers prey on people’s appetite for information and curiosity; phishing emails and SMS messages use the virus as a lure to trick people into revealing credentials or downloading malicious software.

Paul Chichester, Director of Operations at the NCSC, said: “Malicious cyber actors are adjusting their tactics to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic, and the NCSC is working round the clock with its partners to respond. Our advice to the public and organisations is to remain vigilant and follow our guidance, and to only use trusted sources of information on the virus such as UK Government, Public Health England or NHS websites.”


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