Coronavirus scam warning: Fraud victim loses over £15,000 after buying face masks online | Personal Finance

A worrying scam has been reported amid the outbreak of coronavirus, with the scam costing victims more than £800,000 in one month, Action Fraud has warned. Since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified 21 reports of fraud where coronavirus was mentioned.

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The victim losses for these reports totalled more than £800,000.

Of the 21 reports, 10 were made by victims that attempted to purchase protective face masks from fraudulent sellers.

Worryingly, one victim has reported losing more than £15,000 when they purchased face masks that were never delivered.

Action Fraud said they have also received multiple reports about coronavirus-themed phishing emails, which attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.

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Coronavirus scam warning: Action Fraud has issued an alert (Image: GETTY)

One common tactic used by fraudsters to contact potential victims is via email, with them purporting to be from research organisations affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The scammers claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area.

In order to access this so-called information, the victim is told to click on a link.

However, doing so leads to a malicious website.

Alternatively, the scammers ask the victim to make a payment in Bitcoin.

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As the virus continues to spread around the world, reporting numbers are expected to rise.

Chief Inspector Paul Carroll of the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) said: “It’s important to take your time when making a purchase online and not to rush.

“When you’re online shopping, do your research. Read up on the website you are thinking of buying from especially if it’s not well-known, look for reviews of the site, and most importantly chat to your friends and family and get their opinion before completing the purchase.

“If you decide to go ahead, use a credit card if possible as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.”

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As well as issuing the alert, Action Fraud has issued some information about how people can try to protect themselves from coronavirus scams.

Watch out for scam messages

“Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.”

Shopping online

“If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase.

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“If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

“For more information on how to shop online safely, please visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/shoponlinesafely.”

Protect your devices from the latest threats

“Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.

“For information on how to update your devices, please visit: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/securing-your-devices.”