Scams often focus on some of the key elements of life that people utilise every day. This can include emails and telephone calls. Scammers are using more sophisticated measures to get access to victims assets, with one of the hardest to spot methods being “phishing emails”
- Coronavirus health ALERT – Don’t open this health advice email
Phishing involves a scammer attempting to obtain private and sensitive information from a victim by pretending to be a trustworthy organisation.
Martin Gurney, a tax partner at Haines Watts, details that emails are starting to emerge that look like they’re from “gov.uk” which detail that people can benefit from coronavirus themed perks.
Martin claims that some of these emails suggest that there is a tax rebate available for everyone, which offers £124 to buy products to protect themselves from the virus.
This is completely false but the email itself can look deceptively legitimate as it contains the government’s website design.
Martin provided some insight into how this scam works: “Some emails say ‘Click here to receive your refund’, while others are suggesting you click a link to a site to read an updated ‘health warning’ – the bug can then access all of the stored information and passwords on your device.”
Clicking on links is one of the easiest things to do online, making this a particularly dangerous scam.
It may seem particularly despicable that scammers would take advantage of people who have legitimate health concerns, but Martin warns that fraudsters will take every available opportunity to take advantage of individuals online.
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He explains that this new kind of scam is already causing issues for many people:
“We frequently get queries from clients regarding emails that we have received, in particular when the communication looks to have been sent by a regulatory body, such as HM Revenue & Customs.
“We understand that emails are being circulated relating to coronavirus offering refunds or suggesting that a link is followed to access up-to-date advice.
“Remember, it is less likely that regulatory bodies will hold your email address or that they will choose to communicate with you by email. Therefore we all have to be vigilant and be sceptical!”
Fortunately, it is relatively easy to embrace a skeptical mindset. Martin, who has more than 20 years’ experience in accountancy and tax, details that there are some tips that everyone can heed to put an end to scammers.
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As he details:
“For the avoidance of doubt, it is almost certainly a scam if any of the following apply:
- “You were not expecting the email;
- “You are being offered a refund or some other reward that you were not expecting;
- “You are being asked to make a call to secure a refund/reward;
- “You are being asked to input information to secure a refund/reward
“If you receive such an email:
- “Contact your accountant; or
- “Contact the relevant regulatory body direct using the contact details from their website [i.e. do not use the contact information from the email]
“Until you have verified the authenticity of the email:
- “Do not open any attachments
- “Do not click on any links”
The government themselves also provide guidance on how to report scams.
HMRC have their own phishing team which can be contacted with any suspicious emails, texts to phone calls.
There are two email addresses that can be contacted for HMRC and they are email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Action Fraud can also be contacted for any fraud or cybercrime instances.
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