Industry watchdog Ofcom has recently released an advisory warning people about the increasing instances of texts and calls relating to Covid-19 or coronavirus. It has asked people to be aware of such calls and avoid divulging any personal information.
Scammers have been sending text messages and calling landlines claiming to be from the recipient’s doctor’s office, the NHS and other governmental organisations, even the WHO. There is either a recorded message or a caller who claims that you are being contacted regarding the coronavirus. The scammer would then offer you a Covid-19 test, some cure/treatment or may ask to discuss your medical requirements.
Such calls are engineered for you to either talk to the operator or press some button/key on your phone to get more details:
>Speaking to an operator could increase the risk of giving out personal/financial details. This could lead to financial loss or identity theft.
>In cases where you are asked to press a button on the phone, you may be connected to a premium number that would incur a premium/high cost.
A scam text comes with an attachment or link that must not be trusted. Avoid clicking on them. There have been instances of scam texts claiming to be from the government and providing a payment regarding coronavirus. Carefully check the URLs in such texts- they would not be for a ‘.gov.uk’ website, but rather a fake site that would take your details. This is known as phishing.
There have been scam texts that mimic government alerts as well. If you think any such texts/calls are genuine (for instance from your GP), then it would be best that you reach out to them separately and ask if you were contacted.
There have been instances of scammers claiming to be from industry watchdog Ofcom itself. Such calls often have a recorded message/caller saying that with increased people working from home, your broadband connection needs to be turned off or slowed. Like other scam calls, the objective here is to make you press a button to get more details or talk to an operator. Doing any of these actions could expose you to risks similar to those described above.
Ofcom never calls consumers with alerts or issues like these. If you get any such call that claims to be from Ofcom, hang up.
The UK Government has been using text messages to send out alerts on mobile phones. Alerts are sent gradually and may reach people at different times depending on their mobile networks. These legitimate texts are usually to inform people about the latest advice and rules related to the lockdown. Generally, any texts from the UK Government would be from ‘UK_Gov’ and have the same text for all users.
While everyone needs to stay indoors and maintain distancing to be safe, ensuring that your identity and financial information is protected while at home is equally important. If you receive any call or text that asks you to reveal personal information or provide your details for receiving a ‘payment’, then it is likely to be a scam.
Do not open any attachments or click on links unless you can verify the authenticity of the sender. If you receive any government alerts, do check the sender’s details too. If there are any links within the text, then check carefully to ensure that they are for an official ‘.gov.uk’ website. Stay up to date with the local news and government websites so you know if any new rules or information is shared.
If you receive any WhatsApp requests to forward codes or send certain details, do not do so. Block the sender and avoid replying or forwarding the text. Staying cautious and taking simple measures like these could make all the difference when it comes to protecting your money and personal information.