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Beware: Test & Trace latest Opportunity for COVID-19 Fraudsters

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

Chiltern Community Forum reported back in March that the Coronavirus epidemic was being treated as an opportunity by criminals. In addition to the elderly and vulnerable, these scams look to exploit fear of the virus, of stretched personal finances, and the promise of various Government emergency schemes.

interpol graphic of covid-19 scamsOur recent survey of residents’ concerns showed ‘Rogue Traders and Scams’, and ‘Cyber Crime and Fraud’ showed up more prominently than usual, in our recent survey of residents’ concerns. This seems likely to reflect awareness that COVID-19 has been exploited ruthlessly by criminals. Trading Standards reports that during the virus lockdown, there has been an estimated 40% increase in reported doorstep, phone and email scams across Buckinghamshire.

Trading Standards is at the forefront of that awareness campaign, and is now warning residents of potential text, email and phone frauds based on the new NHS Test & Trace system.

The most effective means of combatting most of these frauds is through caution and awareness. The most likely route for criminals to contact targets will be through ‘phishing’ texts and emails, or by phone. As ever, you are advised to ‘think before you click’ on a link in a text or email. This might suggest, for example, that someone testing positive to Covid-19 had come into contact with you and recommend a click-link for more help.

Above all, you will NEVER have to give financial information in the event of a Test & Trace contact.

You are encouraged to forward suspicious emails to the National Cyber Security Centre at report@phishing.gov.uk

As lockdown scams continue, Trading Standards’ advice to residents is:

  • Be sceptical, don’t be afraid to delete the email/text or put the phone down.
  • Take your time, don’t be rushed.
  • Know who you’re dealing with: if you need help, talk to someone you know or get in touch with Trading Standards advice line on 0300 123 2329.
  • Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know.
  • Never engage with someone or allow them access unless you are able to verify their authenticity and who they are.

Government Test & Trace guidance

A comprehensive explanation of the Test & Trace system can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works

Contact tracers will:

  • call you from 0300 013 5000;
  • send you text messages from ‘NHS’;
  • ask you to sign into the NHS test and trace contact-tracing website;
  • ask for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity, and postcode to offer support while self-isolating;
  • ask about the coronavirus symptoms you have been experiencing;
  • ask you to provide the name, telephone number and/or email address of anyone you have had close contact with in the two days prior to your symptoms starting;
  • ask if anyone you have been in contact with is under 18 or lives outside of England.

Contact tracers will never:

  • ask you to dial a premium rate (09 or 087) number to speak to them;
  • ask you to make any form of payment or purchase a product or any kind;
  • ask for any details about your bank account;
  • ask for your social media identities or login details, or those of your contacts;
  • ask you for any passwords or PINs, or ask you to set up any passwords or PINs over the phone;
  • disclose any of your personal or medical information to your contacts;
  • provide medical advice on the treatment of any potential coronavirus symptoms;
  • ask you to download any software to your PC or ask you to hand over control of your PC, smartphone or tablet to anyone else;
  • ask you to access any website that does not belong to the government or NHS.

Real Example of a Test & Trace Scam Phone Call

We were sent this transcript of a real-life attempt to extort money from a member of the public:

‘Good morning, I’m calling from the NHS track and trace service. According to our system, you are likely to have been in close proximity to someone who has tested postive for COVID-19. This means that you now need to self-isolate for 7 days and take a COVID-19 test.’

‘OK. Can you tell me who that person was?’

‘I’m not able to tell you that. That is confidential information.’

‘Right. Um… so ….’

‘But you do need to be tested within the next 72 hours. So can I just get the best mailing address so that we can send a kit to you?’

‘Ok (gives address)’

‘Thank you – and I just need to take a payment card so that we can finalise this and send the kit to you.’

‘Sorry – a payment card? I thought this was all free?’

‘No – I’m afraid not. There is a one-off fee of £500 for the kit, and test results. Could you read off the long card number for me, please, when you’re ready.’

‘No – that’s not right. This is part of the NHS so there’s no charge.’

‘I’m afraid there is. Can you give me the card number please – this is very important, and there are penalties for not complying.’

Puts phone down.

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