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Free school dinner and other phishing emails

Scammers keep coming up with new pandemic-related tactics to extract money or info from consumers, warns the counter-fraud trade body Cifas.

NHS ‘Test and Trace’ scams have been circulating; for example, fraudsters contact vulnerable people to tell them they are at risk of Covid-19 and need to buy a testing kit; for £500. Or, emails prey on people’s fear and anxieties over Covid-19. Cifas is reminding people that the NHS Test and Trace service will never ask for personal or financial details, or ask them to call a premium rate number. More advice is available on the NHS website.

Parents and carers have reported receiving emails offering financial help during the pandemic if their child is entitled to free school meals. The email provides a link for recipients to supply their bank details for reimbursement, and these details are then being used to steal money from bank accounts or for identity fraud.

Cifas is reminding parents that receive an email, text or WhatsApp message offering money during the pandemic to never share personal or financial details – even if the request appears to be legitimate.

People are being targeted by compromised emails that look like they have been sent by a friend. The email claims that the sender is in hospital and asks the recipient to purchase gift cards – usually from Amazon – on their behalf. The amount requested is usually around £300 to £400, and the email states that they will be paid back once they have forwarded the details of the gift cards. Cifas urges anyone receiving a similar email to check with the recipient that it is legitimate before sending goods, financial or personal details.

Fraudsters have been targeting social media users; Instagram users have been receiving messages claiming to be from Instagram’s help centre. The message warns that one of their posts has infringed copyright law, and that their account will be closed within 24 hours if they don’t dispute the ‘breach’ – which they can do by clicking on a link and providing their personal and log-in details. Like many scams, these messages include a number of grammatical errors, and the account name used to send the messages is ‘Instagramsupportcf’. Instagram has reminded users that it only contacts its users about account information or issues over email – never through a private message on the platform.

Amber Burridge, Head of Fraud Intelligence for Cifas, said: ‘Fraudsters continue to use the pandemic to target innocent people, and are changing their tactics on a regular basis in order to steal money and information. Anyone who has lost money to fraudsters may be reluctant to report it as they feel ashamed or embarrassed, but people need to remember that they have been the victim of crime and so it is important to report all scams and get the help and support they might need.’

See also the Crimestoppers website.


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