Scammers are taking full advantage of coronavirus misinformation to try to trick victims into handing over thousands of pounds.
Trading standards officers are warning of a text con trick that purports to offer lump-sum payments under a government rescue scheme to those who are facing financial difficulties due to coronavirus.
The tricksters vary the amount on offer from a few hundred to several thousand pounds.
Victims are urged to click a link in the text message that sends them to a bogus government web site that asks for banking details and passwords so the payment can be made.
Katherine Hart, of the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards, said: “While the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is bringing out the best behaviour from the majority of the public, it is also leading to a sharp rise in scams. Opportunists have unleashed a barrage of different tricks to try and defraud the public out of money during this vulnerable time.
“The government are not issuing lump-sum payments, and anyone who receives these texts should ignore them and not tap the link.”
Fines for leaving home
Warning of another scam, Hart revealed fraudsters are also sending texts telling householders that they have been fined for leaving their properties during the coronavirus lockdown.
The message falsely claims police have monitored their movement via the GPS capability in their smartphones.
“The list of new scams associated with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic grows by the day. I am appalled and infuriated at the ways unscrupulous individuals exploit this situation,” said Hart.
“We see new scams daily, and I would urge people to seek advice before replying to any messages they receive. This latest text scam issues a fake fine which tells the recipient to pay a fine or face more severe action.
“Anyone who receives this text should ignore it. It is simply another ruse to steal the payment details of users. In all of these cases, do not click, or tap any links that these messages ask you to.”
Meanwhile, a special government task force is tracking people publishing false coronavirus information through social media.
The Rapid Response Unit, operating from within the Cabinet Office and 10 Downing Street, dealing with around 70 cases a week.
Penny Mordaunt, Paymaster General said: “Holding your breath for ten seconds is not a test for coronavirus and gargling water for 15 seconds is not a cure – this is the kind of false advice we have seen coming from sources claiming to be medical experts.
“That is why government communicators are working with health bodies to promote official medical advice, rebut false narratives and clamp down on criminals seeking to exploit public concern during this pandemic.”