The Covid-19 scamming risk
As many of you will no doubt be aware, there are those who seek to take advantage of all situations and the current Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is no exception. Whatever your awareness of this very real risk, we ask that you carefully read what follows and share it widely to help you, your family, friends and neighbours to stay safe.
How it can affect you.
In this digital age, it is easy to think that scamming is new and only affects us when using a computer, mobile or tablet. This is not true: there are cases of scammers successfully deceiving people at their front doors, using the telephone and yes, on their computer and portable devices.
Be clear, scammers are criminals and they want to steal your money. This real threat is targeted at everyone and not just the elderly or those living alone. Your money is as good as anyone’s to a thief and you only have to drop your guard for one second…
How it works.
It’s impossible to definitively express this because scammers are always thinking of new ways to operate, and they are always one step ahead of us all. However, by following some simple common sense guidance, we can make it more difficult for the scammers to succeed.
Phone a friend.
Scammers do not confine themselves to one particular way of working but will sometimes make their initial contact by phone, claiming to represent an organisation that you are likely to instinctively trust. Next, there will be something which requires your urgent attention with a soft threat of, for example, being cut off by BT. Worry not, the scammer will explain what you should do to avoid this, and at this point, you should put the phone down and terminate the call. A bona fide organisation will never contact you in this manner and ask you to send them money. If you remain concerned, and this is important, using a different phone, call the organisation and ask them if they called you. Don’t let the mention of Coronavirus or Covid-19 lower your defence.
There are no limits and no rules for the scammers. For us there is one rule, treat every unexpected call as a scam call and hang up, even if they say it is the Police calling. The time it takes to make a call, remember, using a different phone line, will be much less inconvenient than being scammed. Remember, if in doubt, phone a friend and ask them what they think…
Just don’t click.
Email is another popular way to set up a victim. Once again, the email is likely to look familiar, HMRC, your bank, or even someone you might know. Using a Covid-19 theme, the email may ask you to undertake a purchase for the sender because they cannot get to the shops, or more generally to purchase something else entirely, such as an iPhone card. If you are asked to make unplanned purchases of any sort, just delete the email and move on. It’s also really important, REALLY IMPORTANT, that you do not hover your mouse and click on web links contained in the email: be careful where you point! If you do click, malware will be downloaded and you simply won’t see any evidence of it as the hacker quietly explores your environment looking for the most valuable things to steal.
If in doubt, delete, phone the sender if they are known to you, or do nothing.
Sources of help and assistance.
Your biggest source of help is you, be aware, trust nothing and check first. A quick chat with a friend, family member or even your Street Contact, might be all it takes to triumph over the criminal who would do you harm.
There are many sources of help and Citizens Advice is a good place to start.
Which? Also provides guidance that might be helpful.
If you think you have been scammed, it might help to protect other more vulnerable people if you were to report it and again, Citizens Advice can help.
Your bottom line.
Criminals do not pick and choose; they target us all in high volume across many different vectors (telephone, front door, email, web pages etc.) of attack and they only need to be successful less than 1% of the time to make significant money – your money. Assume that anything which looks vaguely strange, odd, out of the blue, weird or just plain wrong, probably is.
No professional organisation will cut off services without proper notice that allows you to check, verify and take proper advice. Today, Covid-19 is being used as the distraction to exploit us all. But beware; tomorrow it will be something else to take you off guard. Don’t be deceived, the threat is the same, persistent and you need to stay alert.
Put the phone down | don’t click | verify authenticity using a different phone | Phone a friend
With best wishes
The Three Villages Support Group.