Criminals Exploiting Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Covid19 scams and cybercrime warning

It is important to remember that the vast majority of people who offer or provide services in times of crisis do so with the best of intentions. Unfortunately there are examples of a minority of people exploiting the current situation to take advantage of vulnerable people. This minority could be organised criminals, ordinary people or even trusted family and friends. In desperate times, desperate people can do desperate things. 

Latest police figures show there have been 105 reports since February with losses of almost £1m.

People can become vulnerable at different points in their lives whether due to age; mental ill-health; redundancy; serious illness, or other significant/sudden life changing event. People may not openly display signs of vulnerability and may not be in a position to recognise it for themselves. It is important not to make assumptions.

You can help protect the vulnerable in 2 ways.

  1. Recognising the risks in the services you provide
  2. Raising awareness of the different scams and the things people can do to reduce the risks

Recognising the risks in the services you provide 

Some services are intrinsically more risky than others if they involve transfer of money or personal data, or require entry in to people’s homes e.g. buying shopping, paying for prescriptions. These will require greater level of control than those of lower risk e.g. delivering of leaflets, information or goods which don’t require entry into a person’s home.

The common features of scams are the criminal will try to gain the trust of the victim and will often pretend to be someone they are not, particularly impersonating people from trusted organisations such as the police, banks, charities, utility companies or government departments.

In order to gain trust personal details relating to individuals can be valuable to criminals and it is important to consider how you are going to protect such information.

Raising awareness of the different scams and the things people can do to reduce the risks

Make people aware of the type of scams that are out there, examples include:

  • Rogue Traders
    • might try to sell a service or goods you don’t need or are counterfeit e.g. Covid-19 cures, testing kits, stolen goods – face masks, hand gels etc.
    • offer on the spot testing for Covid-19 to gain access to the property or access money
  • Bogus Officials who might try to collect confidential information through fake surveys or registers stating these are required for them to reach you or trace you in an emergency
  • Fake Charity Collections – A fraudster may pretend they’re from a charity and ask you to donate money, clothes or household goods for victims of coronavirus.
  • Telephone, mail, email or text scams –
    • Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support.
    • Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter.
    • Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
    • Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details.

You can help protect against these scams:


  • Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information. Ask do I really trust this person, was I expecting them to contact me?
  • Don’t share your PIN, passwords or security number. Never disclose your PIN number or let anyone persuade you to hand over your bank card or withdraw cash.


  • Don’t feel pressured. Don’t agree to sign a contract or hand over money at the door. Think about it and talk to someone you trust. Remember its ok to reject, refuse or ignore requests. Only criminals will try to rush, panic or persuade you.
  • Check their credentials. You should always check someone’s credentials – a genuine person won’t mind. You can phone the company they represent or check online, but never use contact details they give you.


  • Contact your bank immediately if you think you bank details have been stolen 
  • Call the police. Call the police non-emergency number 101 if you’re not in immediate danger but want to report an incident. But call 999 if you feel threatened or in danger. 
  • Report to Action Fraud – by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm or visiting

Things to consider from different perspectives if you are setting up a volunteer or community scheme include:

Service Provider PerspectiveService User Perspective
How will you verify the identity or specialist skills, knowledge or experience of the volunteer?How will the beneficiary verify that a volunteer appearing on their doorstep or on the end of a telephone is genuine?
How will you communicate securely with volunteers and beneficiaries and minimise the volume of such communication?(e.g. Whatsapp is more secure than texts)How will the beneficiary know that the communication is from a trusted source?
How will you securely receive, store,  use and where necessary dispose of personal or financial information or cash/electronic transactions?How will the beneficiary know that the information request is genuine and that the transaction is secure?
How will you verify that the needs/requirements of the beneficiary are genuine? 
How will you verify that the service/goods have been provided by the volunteer in accordance with your instructions/requirements?How will the beneficiary verify that the service has been completed as requested?
What information/instructions will you provide to volunteers regarding protecting the vulnerable, their information and their cash?What information/instructions will you provide to beneficiaries so that they know what to expect and what not to do?
What mechanisms do you have in place for volunteers to recognise the warning signs, raise concerns and for you to handle those appropriately?What mechanisms do you have in place for beneficiaries to recognise the warning signs, raise concerns and for you to handle those appropriately?

How we can support you

It can perhaps seem daunting to think of all of the things you need to cover in identifying how you or your organisation might be vulnerable to fraud and cybercrime and how you can protect it.

Our unique Fraud Management Resource Centre has a wealth or resources, guides and tools available free. For more general coronavirus scam warnings please also see our blog post coronavirus stay safe online

We are also inviting you to ask us a question and we will provide our response and post these online during this crisis. Simply complete the form below to submit your question.

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