Coronavirus: Banks warn on wave of text message 'smishing' scams

31 Mar 2020

Fraudsters are using tactics including spoofing in a bid to trick victims into handing over bank and other personal details.
Coronavirus: Banks warn on wave of text message 'smishing' scams

The banking industry has warned of a surge in so-called "smishing" scams as criminals try to exploit the coronavirus pandemic.

UK Finance spoke up as the public is urged to be vigilant in the face of trickery via phones, the internet and even on the doorstep amid the lockdown to help keep people safe from covid-19.

Smishing, UK Finance said, is when criminals use text messages impersonating other organisations in a bid to get personal and financial information or money.

Of particular concern, it said, was the growing use of a technique called "spoofing" which can make a message appear in a chain of texts alongside previous genuine messages.

The body said the texts often claim to be from government departments, banks or other trusted organisations, offering payments related to the coronavirus outbreak or claiming to be issuing fines.

Criminals are using the internet, telephones and doorstep calls to exploit fear of the coronavirus pandemic, investigators have warned.

They have revealed a blitz of scams that include the sale of fake sanitisers, bogus demands for donations and false offers to run errands for the elderly and vulnerable.

Some scammers are offering "health supplements" that claim to prevent infection from thecovid-19 virus.

Other victims are being tricked into opening email attachments that will reveal their bank details and other personal information.

Lord Toby Harris, chairman of National Trading Standards (NTS), said: "At a time when neighbourhoods and communities are coming together to support each other, it is despicable that heartless criminals are exploiting members of the public - including some of our most vulnerable citizens - to line their own pockets.

"I urge everyone to be on their guard for possible COVID-19 scams and to look out for vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours who may become a target for fraudsters.

"We're calling on communities to look out for one another. If you see anything suspicious, report it to Action Fraud or to speak to someone for advice, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service."

NTS says counterfeit hand sanitisers, masks and virus-swabbing kits are being sold online and by door-to-door callers.

Some sanitisers reportedly contain a potentially harmful substance called glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.

Bogus telephone callers are claiming to be from banks, building societies and utility companies and urging victims to reveal passwords and PIN codes.

Dodgy doorstep callers are urging victims to donate towards research for a coronavirus vaccine.

Investigators urge people to distinguish between genuine and bogus charity collectors by asking for identification.

And they warn that as financial hardship bites, loan sharks are likely to be offering to lend money at exorbitant interest rates.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said: "Consumers who see ads, whether online, in newspapers, social media, posters or elsewhere, that claim to offer cures or treatments for coronavirus should be highly sceptical."

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