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6 New Online Scams To Look Out For

by Paul Watsdon

 

Online fraudsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, putting more and more effort into making their scams look genuine and tricking more unsuspecting victims as a result. Because of these new levels of sophistication (mostly thanks to technology), it can be hard to spot the signs of a scam and know when you’re being duped. 

That said, there are signs you can look out for to better equip you for recognising online scams. Educating yourself and being aware of the tell-tale signs is the best way to stop yourself from becoming a victim. We’ve got cybersecurity experts Evalian to look at the details of some of the newer scams that have emerged in 2020, so you know what to look out for. 

  1. Track and trace scams 

A large theme throughout these new scams is the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, scammers have taken advantage of people’s uncertainty and fear during these unprecedented times and have set up numerous scams to try and extract money and/or information out of people. 

The latest track and trace scam to emerge consists of scammers contacting unsuspecting individuals and claiming to be from NHS track and trace. They then tell the individual that they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and that they need to be tested immediately. They say they will send out a test to their home, so they don’t have to go out to the doctors surgery. The catch? They must part with their bank details and address in order to pay for and receive this test. 

It’s important to remember that NHS track and trace staff will never ask for bank details, passwords or pins or for any information regarding social media or other online accounts. If something seems suspicious, it’s best to hang up and get in touch with your GP or NHS track and trace directly. 

  1. Lockdown fines 

Another Coronavirus-related scam is phoney lockdown fines. Scammers have been contacting victims via text message claiming to be the Government and stating that they are being fined for breaking lockdown rules. Praying on people’s fear of rule-breaking and having to pay up, these fraudsters tell recipients that their movements have been recorded via their phone and that they have at some stage broken lockdown regulations. They are told to pay the fine or face a more severe penalty. 

It’s worth remembering that even if you have done something wrong, a text from a governing body will never use threatening language. If you’re unsure about a text you’ve received, you can check the number online as it may have already been reported as a scam. But as a general rule, the Government will not text you regarding a lockdown fine, these are usually issued by the police in person, so don’t part with your cash.

  1. Council tax rebates

With everything that’s going on right now, governing bodies and local councils are doing their best to help people affected by Coronavirus and who may have lost their job or been temporarily laid-off. Part of this is reductions or delays in council tax payments. Problem is, fraudsters have got wind of this and put together a brand new scam. 

Recipients have been receiving fake emails supposedly from governing bodies or councils asking for bank details. In return for this information, they promise a council tax-related rebate. Of course, this doesn’t materialise and instead, these criminals now have your bank details.

  1. Free school meals 

Another upsetting scam to arise from the Coronavirus pandemic is the ‘free school meals’ scam email that’s been doing the rounds. With children out of school, criminals are targeting struggling parents telling them they’re entitled to compensation for the usual free school meals that the children would receive. They are then told to share their bank details in order to be compensated for these meals. 

Even if you are entitled to any support in regards to your children’s school meals, you will not be asked to share your bank details via email. As such, you should avoid sharing this sensitive information.

  1. PayPal phishing scam 

But it’s not all Coronavirus related, PayPal phishing scams are also on the rise right now. These emails claim to be from PayPal and quite often look very professional and convincing. They claim that there has been a new login request from an unknown device or location. They then ask the recipient to confirm the login or to regain access to their locked account by following the provided link. This link can contain malware or lead to suspicious sites. 

Alternatively, recipients are led to a fake PayPal page – again, one that looks very convincing – where they have to enter their information. This is then captured and stolen by the fraudsters, giving them access to your genuine PayPal account. 

Despite these pages and emails looking very real, there are some signs you can look out for, small grammatical errors such as Google Chrome spelt in lower case ‘google chrome’ can be a big clue the page isn’t legitimate. You should also look out for spelling mistakes or repetition of phrases such as ‘your account’ multiple times. But if you’re ever in doubt, get in touch with PayPal directly, they can alert you as to whether this is a scam or genuine log in attempt. 

  1. WhatsApp verification codes 

Nowadays, a huge number of people use WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family and sometimes even for work purposes. If a scammer is able to get hold of your phone number, they can try to log in to WhatsApp on another device. When the verification code is then sent to you, the hacker will get in touch and try to coax you into forwarding them this code under a number of false pretenses. Once they have this code, they can access your photos, videos and files. They may also get in touch with your contacts and try to extract money or information from them. 

If you ever receive a WhatsApp verification code and you know for a fact that you haven’t tried to log in to another device, this is a huge red flag. Never forward this code to anyone, even someone pretending to be an employee of WhatsApp looking to help you. Keep this to yourself and the scammer will be denied access. You can report this scam directly to WhatsApp if you think you’ve been targeted.