Covid-19 Scams

Advice to consumers - be alert to coronavirus-related fraud attempts

The UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has reported a new trend in fraud related to coronavirus or COVID-19, with the first report being received on 9 February and the number of fraud attempts rapidly increasing as the pandemic continues.  

Our guidance on How to Report a Scam can be found here.

Information regarding any attempted scam on Bailiwick consumers is also being compiled by Trading Standards.  If you believe you are the victim of a scam or an attempted scam, Trading Standards would like to hear from you and ask that you report the attempt to them by emailing [email protected].  Trading Standards’ website can be accessed here.

Please consider the following consumer information and how it could affect you. 

Online shopping scams

The Commission urges consumers to be alert to the increased risk of scams as a result of coronavirus, particularly when shopping online.  The majority of coronavirus-related scams relate to the sale of protective items and items that are in short supply.  Examples include online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser and other products which have never arrived or have been delivered sub-standard and not providing the protection that was expected by the consumer.

If a genuine trader operating a business from the UK, mis-describes their goods or does not deliver in time, this may be covered by UK fair trading legislation.  As a consumer you would have rights under that legislation, including specific rights for distance sales such as 14 days cancellation rights. If you experience these types of issues, you should contact Trading Standards on 01481 234567 or by email to [email protected] who will advise you on your rights. 

Other coronavirus-related scams have been reported in ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.    

Top tips to protect yourself from online shopping coronavirus-related scams? 

  1. Refer to advice that has been issued by experts, for example, “You, Coronavirus and keeping safe online” which has been issued jointly by and others, including Guernsey Police.  This information can be accessed here.
  2. Think carefully before ordering if you manage to find availability of something online that you cannot buy in the shops.
  3. Whenever you are online shopping, it is important to research the seller and their reviews.
  4. Always consider carefully before you buy online.
  5. Use a credit card for any purchase over £100 (and less than £30,000) for possible extra protection.
  6. Protect your devices from threats by always installing the latest software and app updates.
  7. Learn more about scams, and find links to other useful resources, by reading our consumer pages here

Phishing email scams

There has also been an increase in coronavirus-themed phishing emails.  These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details.

Action Fraud in the UK has identified that some of the tactics being used in phishing emails include:

  • Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account.
  • Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates.
  • Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
  • Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing.

You should also be aware of any emails looking to promote a type of investment known as Binary Options. These are a form of betting where stakes are placed on an event happening or not. The FCA has banned binary options being sold to retail customers in the UK, and they should have a limited offering in Guernsey. You should therefore be cautious of any email promoting them.

Top tips to protect yourself from coronavirus-themed phishing email scams 

  1. Protect your devices from threats by always installing the latest software and app updates.
  2. Always consider whether the email you have received may be a scams. 
  3. Don’t click on the links or attachments in any suspicious emails.
  4. Don’t respond to emails that you weren’t expecting to receive which ask for your personal details or bank account details.
  5. Don’t provide your personal details or bank account details over the phone. 
  6. Look to establish a company's credentials. For a list of regulated entities in Guernsey, follow the link here. Those entities regulated by the FCA can be found here.
  7. If the offer in the email looks too good to be true, it probably is!
  8. Learn more about scams, and find links to other useful resources, by reading our consumer pages here. Additionally, the UK government publishes cyber security advice on its Cyber Aware page, found here. For more information specifically regarding insurance or pensions scams, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has some useful advice here and a coronavirus information hub here