The current COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we work, with more people than ever working from home – many for the first time ever. But cyber criminals are taking advantage, particularly of people unused to working remotely. Here are some of the scams that are currently causing problems.

Examples of common scams

One of the most common scams the in UK during this pandemic is emails and SMS messages asking for donations to help the NHS to buy Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and to fund the fight COVID-19 as a whole. The main targets seem to be the elderly, many of whom are self-isolating. Current estimates suggest that scammers have already stolen around £1.6m using this technique.

Another similar scam is text messages apparently from the UK government issuing fines of £250 to people for leaving their house more than once daily during lockdown. Because these messages are fake, the “fines” are paid directly to the scammers. And there are email versions of this scam circulating too. By following the links in a scam email, bank details, accounts and passwords can be stolen, allowing hackers to empty bank accounts completely. So far there have been 2192 reported COVID-19 phishing attempts, but this number is increasing rapidly with over 50 new reports daily.

Effect of the corona virus and how hackers benefit

As industry shuts down, people are losing their jobs at a dramatic rate, causing them to become desperate to find a new job or source of income. Some scammers are calling the unemployed, offering positions as key workers but demanding an advance fee for vetting or background checks. However, these jobs do not exist – scammers are just keeping any money they receive.

The majority of reported crimes are related to online shopping, particularly as more people are relying these services while they practice social distancing. Because these products are in very high demand, people are paying for face masks, gloves and hand sanitiser which never arrives.

Many scams are related to email, and the fact that more people are working from home using computers, provides more opportunities for scammers. By exploiting tragedies and well-publicised global issues, it is easier to trick people because they are anxious and uncertain about the events taking place.

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No mercy from cybercriminals

The uncertainty created by COVID-19 and the global shutdown is providing scammers with plenty of new opportunities to rob and steal. Many people will be unfamiliar with working from home, leaving them vulnerable to the clever techniques used by hackers. And because official advice about the pandemic appears to be unclear and confused, it is no surprise that people are being tricked by messages that look they come from official sources.

To better protect yourself and to avoid falling victim to a COVID-19 scam, take a look at our guide to Protecting your email against phishing attacks. We also have a handy guide to protecting yourself against “smishing” and SMS scams.

Finally, make sure that malware can’t take over your computer or steal your data by downloading a free 30-day trial of Panda Dome antivirus.