Fraudsters prey on coronavirus sufferers in text scam purporting to be from the NHS
Scam: The message, purporting to be from the NHS, instructs victims to order a Covid test kit and gives a link to a website to do so
Michele Simmons was feeling unwell with a dry cough and so was not surprised last week when she received a text message warning her she had been in close contact with someone who has Covid.
The message, purported to be from the NHS, instructed her to order herself a Covid test kit and gave her a link to a website to do so.
However, the health consultant from London did not realise that the message had been sent by fraudsters who were using this new ploy to trick her into handing over her personal information. ‘I was feeling a bit rubbish and was bleary-eyed as I received the message first thing in the morning,’ says Michele. ‘So, not thinking, I clicked on the link, which took me to a website where I entered my personal details.’
Fortunately, Michele grew wary and stopped short of entering her bank details which the fraudulent website claimed were needed to pay a £1 postage charge for the test to be delivered. Other victims have not been so lucky or wary. Santander says customers have lost an average of £5,600 to this scam, in total being conned out of more than £880,000.
Once a victim enters their personal details on the bogus website, they are then contacted by a fraudster claiming to be from their bank. By this point, the fraudster is armed with the victim’s name, address and bank details – information which they can parrot back to the victim to sound more convincing. The fraudster convinces their victim that they are being scammed. In some cases they even warn them that they have fallen victim to a Covid test text message scam.
They tell the victim they need to move their money into a safe account and give them details of an account to move it into. Once the victim has transferred their money, the fraudster becomes uncontactable. The victim’s only hope is that their bank reimburses them, although they often refuse to do so for these types of bank transfer scams. Chris Ainsley, head of fraud control at Santander, says: ‘With changes to Covid testing and self-isolation requirements coming into force, fraudsters are exploiting the accompanying uncertainty as the ‘new normal’ beds in.
‘Be on high alert if an SMS or email includes a link to a website – and never feel pressured to move your money. No bank or legitimate organisation will ask you to transfer your money to a safe account – ever.’