Criminals are sending out fake text messages promising coronavirus vaccines to members of the public.
The fraudulent messages state the person is “eligible to apply” for a vaccine, and contain a link to a fake NHS website where they can apply.
Trading Standards, which raised the alert, said the scam messages are designed to trick people into parting with their bank details.
The messages contain a link that asks for personal information and – crucially – card details “for verification”.
The fake NHS message is one of a range of scams which have sought to take advantage of the pandemic and the isolation and legitimate worries of potential victims, according to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.
Others have included people travelling door-to-door selling counterfeit or useless protection equipment, or fraudsters claiming to be from the official test and trace service and demanding payments.
Have you received a fraudulent text message about Covid-19? Get in touch: [email protected]
The latest scam is preying on vulnerable people who are fully expecting to receive guidance about their vaccine.
Health authorities have stressed they would never ask for an individual’s banking details.
Katherine Hart, lead office at the CTSI, said: “I have been tracking and warning the public about Covid-related scams since the beginning of the pandemic, and at every stage of response, unscrupulous individuals have modified their campaigns to defraud the public.
“The vaccine brings great hope for an end to the pandemic and lockdowns, but some only wish to create even further misery by defrauding others. The NHS will never ask you for banking details, passwords, or PIN numbers and these should serve as instant red flags.”
Hart urged people to report the scams to Action Fraud or Police Scotland.
Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, told the committee that fraudsters were continuing to use new avenues to reach potential victims.
“What we’re looking to do next is to move on to fake comparison websites, which is this new gateway into investment frauds, to spot those and take them down at source,” he said.
How to protect yourself
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- Don’t assume anyone who’s sent you an email or text message – or has called your phone or left you a voicemail message – is who they say they are.
- If a phone call or voicemail, email or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious.
- If in doubt, check it’s genuine by asking the company itself. Never call numbers or follow links provided in suspicious emails; find the official website or customer support number using a separate browser and search engine.
- The spelling, grammar, graphic design or image quality on the message is of poor quality. They may use odd ‘spe11lings’ or ‘cApiTals’ in the email subject to fool your spam filter.
- If they know your email address but not your name, it’ll begin with something like ‘To our valued customer’, or ‘Dear…’ followed by your email address.
- The website or email address doesn’t look right; authentic website addresses are usually short and don’t use irrelevant words or phrases. Businesses and organisations don’t use web-based addresses such as Gmail or Yahoo.
To report an incident and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use its online fraud reporting tool.