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New warning against Covid-19 text message scams

Councils are urging people to be wary of new Covid-19-related scams that see text messages sent out promising cash or stating that people owe money for breaching coronavirus regulations.

At the beginning of January, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned of a scam that sees fraudsters offer a fake vaccination booking for a fee. However, councils have since reported a different variation on these text-based scams.

One of the newly identified scams sees a text message sent saying people have breached the government’s lockdown rules and include a link where you can pay a fine.

Another falsely offers a payment from HMRC to help support the individual during the national lockdown and a third aims to collect personal information including name, date of birth and bank details, in order to assist with a Covid-19 business grant application.

The LGA is urging anyone who receives a text about receiving or owing money due to Covid-19 to check for signs that it is a fraudulent message:

  • Councils and other agencies will not text people out of the blue to ask for or offer to make a payment; if the request is supposed to be from an organisation you don’t have an existing relationship with look at it very carefully.
  • Spelling or grammar errors, strange punctuation and lots of capital letters can be signs that a message is fraudulent.
  • Some fake websites are convincing but check the URL against those of the real gov.uk and NHS websites.
  • Councils will never ask for bank card information or security question answers such as mother’s maiden name during a business grant application.

Cllr Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: ‘Unfortunately, these new scams are not the first we’ve seen related to Covid-19 and they most likely won’t be the last.

‘Everyone must be vigilant and scrutinise any message claiming to be from the Government, NHS, HMRC, Ofcom or their local authority.

‘These text messages can be very convincing, and it is easy to fall for their promises during this difficult time where many are under their own financial pressures, but there are tell-tale signs they are not legitimate.

‘If you receive a text message promising money, asking for personal information or asking you to pay a fine, be sure to delete it and report it as it may help someone avoid falling victim in the future.’

If you receive a text message that you believe could be fraudulent, note down the phone number it came from then delete the message, before reporting to Action Fraud.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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