Experts are warning concerned individuals in Renfrewshire not to fall foul of a series of scams aimed at exploiting worries and fears around the spread and impact of coronavirus.
Off the back of reports that a series of malicious tricks have already duped the UK public out of more than £800,000, business resilience advisers at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) are urging the population to exercise extreme caution.
Fraudsters are exploiting the fears of COVID-19 coronavirus by sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails falsely claiming to be from a reliable source, in the hope of gaining personal information and financial details, and tricking people into opening malicious attachments.
The emails in question sent to potential victims are pretending to be affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The scammers claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of people in their region affected by coronavirus, should the recipient click on a link to access the information. However, the links lead to a malicious website – or they may be asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.
Multiple victims had also attempted to purchase protective face masks from fraudulent sellers for as much as £15,000 in one case.
Although the majority of people would ignore these emails, it is feared that the panic surrounding coronavirus may lead to many people drawn into the scams.
Ian Stephen, Head of Business Resilience with the SBRC, said “These cynical scams are a telling example of how cyber criminals’ prey on people’s worries.
“It was a matter of time before coronavirus was used as a trigger, with scams likely to to rise in numbers as the disease continues to spread across the globe.
Photo: Ian Stephen
“Don’t be complacent either. These fraudulent emails are often highly convincing, but they do present tell-tale signs about their true nature which can act as strong warning signs.
“By doing simple things such as checking the address of the email sender, or by checking the URL link before visiting the website, users can significantly reduce the risks of being caught out.
“If the user is ever in any real doubt about the legitimacy of the email, then they should visit the services’ legitimate website and check their account for any possible discrepancies – you really can’t be too careful.
“People need to ensure that they do not allow their fears to cloud their judgement online, even if something does appear legitimate, it is better to be safe than sorry.”
The centre, which is a non-profit organisation which exists to support and help protect Scottish businesses has put forward a series of simple tips for spotting a scam email:
- Right click on the sender details to see the real email address of the sender
- Don’t click on any links or attachments
- Right click on the link and copy the URL, then paste this in to a word document to see where the link is trying to take you
- If you think the email is spam, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Carry out some research if you’re purchasing from a company you do not recognise or trust. Ask a friend or family member for a second opinion before purchasing. If you go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.
For more information on how to shop online safely, you can visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/shoponlinesafely
For information on how to update your devices and protect them from the latest threats visit: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/securing-your-devices