Scammers continue to target people based on events in the news, including COVID-19. One particularly prevalent example is phishing – the use of bogus emails to trick people into clicking on links or downloading documents which result in a malware or ransomware infection.
COVID-19 Phishing scams
One current phishing campaign tells taxpayers that they can claim a tax refund to help protect themselves from the COVID-19 outbreak. An email version of this scam has been seen in a number of formats, one example being:
HMRC are also aware of COVID-19 SMS texts telling customers they can claim a ‘goodwill payment’. An example of the scam wording is:
“As Part of the NHS promise to battle the COV- 19virus, HMRC has issued a payment of £258 as a goodwill payment. Follow link to apply.”
Another SMS text scam states that the recipient has been fined for leaving the house more than once. An example is:
Do not reply to any such emails or texts, and do not open any links they may contain or call any numbers given.
Steps to protect yourself from scams
HMRC's advice is:
- Recognise the signs – genuine organisations like banks and HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your bank details, PIN or password.
- Stay safe – don’t give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting.
- Take action – forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing [at] hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599.
- Check GOV.UK for information on how to avoid and report scams and to recognise genuine HMRC contact.
- If you think you have received an HMRC-related phishing or bogus email or text message, you can check it against examples published on GOV.UK.
- Contact your bank immediately if you believe you’ve submitted card details to a scammer and report to Action Fraud if you suffer financial loss.
Further guidance and support
The Home Office has published a series of simple steps which individuals and businesses can take to protect themselves from fraud and cyber crime, together with additional information on where to look for support.
The National Cyber Security Centre (the UK’s national technical authority on cyber security) also has advice on how to keep your business secure online which is tailored for the self-employed and sole traders, SMEs and large organisations.
The Financial Conduct Authority has published guidance on what to look out for when it comes to financial services scams.
Finally, more information on HMRC phishing scams generally can also be found here