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Police warn of coronavirus-related scams

Fraudsters cashing in on virus fears online and by phone

COVID-19 coronavirus particle computer generated
Image by Felipe Esquivel Reed released via Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

More than 20 new coronavirus scams have been identified by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) since February, according to Hertfordshire police.

A message circulated via the county’s Online Watch Link (OWL), a neighbourhood watch network, warns those who are concerned about coronavirus of the methods being used by the fraudsters.

Police say half of the scams involve the sale of protective face masks from fraudulent sellers.

Fraudsters are also sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails in an attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial details.

Scam emails and calls

Other recent scams involve fraudsters contacting potential victims via email claiming to be from research organisations affiliated with either the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Those sending the emails claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus-infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim is either asked to click on a link - which then leads to a malicious website - or they are asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.

Police say the number of scams is escalating daily. They say it’s clear that criminals will continue to try to find ways to cash in on the fears surrounding coronavirus.

Derrick Sweeney, the watch liaison officer at Hertfordshire’s OWL, advises people to never to click on any links or attachments in suspicious emails, and not to give their personal or financial details.

Shopping online

If shopping online, police advise against buying from a company or person you don’t know and trust.

They say you should research any seller before purchasing.

If you do decide to go ahead and buy the product, the police advice is to use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

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