There are always phishing scams, hackers and fraudsters looking for new ways to con you, so it always pays to be on your guard. They are by definition unscrupulous, so it should come as no surprise that the COVID-19 crisis is meat and drink to them – an opportunity to profit from people’s uncertainty and fears.
- Watch out for emails and social media links offering information about Coronavirus or telling you to take action. Phishing emails often use official logos and are designed to look like the real thing, with links to websites that also look like the real thing.
- Even if it looks like you know the person who sent you the email or shared the link, check that the address hasn’t been spoofed and that it’s really from them. Scammers are good at impersonating people and email and social media accounts do get hacked and used to send out all sorts of scams.
- The safest way to get information is to go to websites and social media feeds that you know are genuine, such as official government and NHS sources. This is also the best way to avoid fake news.
- If in any doubt, type in web addresses yourself, rather than follow email or posted links that may take you to fake sites, which then try to steal your personal information or infect your computer with malware.
- Other emails may appeal to your charitable instincts, asking you to donate money to worthy-sounding but false fundraising operations. If it’s not a charity that you know and trust, check it is genuine before donating.
- Watch out too for people peddling overpriced, ineffective, counterfeit or faulty goods – or ones that simply never arrive. Health products are a prime category for such dodgy dealers.
And remember, there are plenty of offline scams too. Most of us are probably familiar with “BT” and “Microsoft” phoning to tell us that we have problems with our computers (which they will be happy to create). Not to mention the cold calling double glazing and insulation salespeople and the “it’s about your accident” crowd. And we should also be sceptical about doorstep fundraisers or leaflets pushed through our doors. They may be genuine, from groups set up to support vulnerable members of our community. Or they may be trying to take advantage of them.
If in doubt, check it out.