This is a guest post by Paul Newton.
My name is Paul Newton and I own a company called MentalTheft. We’re currently helping a lot of people who are worried about COVID-19 scams. We’re working to keep ahead of these scammers and warn people before they fall foul and lose their money.
Below is a list of some of the common current scams running during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Please be aware that a lot of these scams can be run at any time and there doesn’t need to be a global virus for these to work!
Scammers are currently using “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt” (FUD) to try and create a feeling of urgency and panic when they’re trying to take your money.
- Criminals offering to do shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
- Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Fake testing for the COVID-19 virus – these tests are pointless!! Do not pay for them!
- To protect yourself, do not answer the door to unknown people. Always ask for identification for anyone claiming to be an official.
- Email scams tricking people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
- Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is the site corona-virus-map.com’which is now fortunately shut down.
- Always be alert to online scams. If it looks too good to be true, it’s going to be a scam, for sure.
Holiday refund scams
- Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.
- If you are looking to get a refund for travel, see the Complaining Cow article Travel in the time of Coronavirus – Your rights explained
- Fake sanitisers, face masks and COVID-19 swabbing test kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.
- You wouldn’t buy dodgy products from your local shops, so why pay for fakes offered to you on the doorstep? Just say “no”!
- As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
- A person calling from your bank will never ask for account numbers or passwords. If anyone does, then just hang up.
NHS track and trace scheme
- NHS COVID-19 contact tracing message: how can I tell if it’s real or a scam? A full guide from Which? about the track and trace and how to ensure it really is the NHS contating you.
- There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.
- No genuine charity worker will ask you for money on your doorstep in connection with COVID-19.
- Illegal money lenders may prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence
How to avoid scams
Something that I want you to all think about and take in and remember whenever you get in a phone call or whenever you get an email from somebody that you don’t know is to verify the information first before replying or taking any other action.
This means that you check any information given to you by a potential scammer. A scammer will hate the fact that you’re trying to verify who they are whereas a real person, a real supplier or a trusted person or contact will happily help you to verify.
I had this recently when my credit card company noticed some fraudulent activity on my own card. They contacted me and asked me for some security information. I responded saying that I don’t give out that kind of information to people on phone numbers that I don’t know. The person on the other end of the line said you know what? You’re the first person to say that to me for two weeks. He was actually really happy that somebody had stopped him and wanted to go and verify his side of the story. He told me to ring the phone number that was on the back of my credit card at least then I knew it would be a trusted phone number. He told me which department he had phoned from and to ask to be put through and it would be treated as a priority call. I got my credit card and looked at the phone number on the back which I then called. I explained the situation to the person on the end of the phone and was put through to the same guy to whom I had just been speaking.
They had noticed that a company had tried to take nearly £4,000 from my credit card and it was a purchase that I had never made before. It wasn’t even the right type of goods or the kind of store that I would use. In this situation they were spot on. They had stopped the fraud before it had even happened. The massive downside is that because no crime had been committed, the police can be involved and wouldn’t do anything. The credit card company were really happy that I had tested them and made sure that they were genuine. There was no bad feeling, there was no embarrassment, they actually said they wished more people would do it.
So if the only thing you walk away from here remembering today is to trust but verify, then I’ve done my job.
Good luck to you.
And look after each other.
About the author, Paul Newton
Paul Newton is a Public speaker and magician.
With a wide range of skills in magic, mind control, mental theft and hypnosis, he has built a large following by being entertaining and educational.
His career has grown out of being a magician – from weddings and events to stage shows, something he still does with a lot of passion! However, over the years, his work in security and understanding people, especially how to trick them, has grown into becoming a public speaker for business audiences.
His performances are engaging and enjoyable, but more importantly it helps people to start thinking about how every day actions can become security issues and so staff and owners alike can become more secure. He is also a prolific business networker, so you will possibly see him out and about!