At difficult times like this, it is more important than ever that we all work together to get through the current crisis. Unfortunately there are some people who see such situations as an opportunity to wreak havoc for their own benefit. In recent weeks, several scams have sprung up around the coronavirus outbreak. Beware the following attempts to hack your electronic devices and steal your money. 

PICTURE: Nahel Abdul Hadi/Unsplash

False tax refunds

The fictional tax refund is a mainstay of the scamming scene. Sent out as either e-mails or texts, these claim that the recipient is due a tax refund and all they have to do is fill in their personal details to claim it. Sadly entering your personal details on such websites will not get you any money. Instead, they will be used to access your personal financial information or to engage in identity theft. 

With several support schemes being implemented by the government, many people are expecting to receive funds from HMRC. This makes these new versions of this classic scam all the more plausible, stating that the refund is related to the current criss. Whilst HMRC have been using electronic communication to invite applications for the business support schemes, these have simply invited eligible applicants to apply through the HMRC website. You should never use a link provided in an e-mail or text, instead accessing the HMRC website directly (hmrc.gov.uk) to ensure you are not providing your details to anyone else. 

Bogus appeals for donations

From our own Hastings Emergency Action Response Team (HEART) to Colonel Tom Moore’s fundraising walk, the emergency has brought out the best in some people. Many of these good causes have been seeking funds to assist them in helping others. Not all appeals for help are genuine however. Taking the opposite opproach to the offers of money above, these seek to get people to send them money instead. 

Some of these pretend to come from medical organisations, such as the World Health Organisation of the American Center for Disease Control. Others simpy pretend to be from ordinary charitable organisations. Whilst not a definitive way of identifying fake appeals, a common feature of many is to ask for funds to be sent using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. This use of less common financial instruments is justified by the assertion that the banking system is being badly affected by the pandemic. In reality the main reason for asking for funds in this way is that the transactions are a lot harder to trace when paid in this way. Be sure that any appeal links you receive are from legitimate sources before donating your own cash. 

False advice

It will not come as a surprise to many people that false information is rife. Fake cures, such as the injection of disinfectant and sunlight, are just the tip of the iceberg. While much of the erroenous advice circulating around the internet arises from simple ignorance, some is targeted with a more sinister purpose in mind. Often claiming to have data that is being suppressed by the governments of the world, these claim that details of a real cure or perfect protective measures. Couched in alarming terms, these are intended to frighten the recipients into clicking on a link without thinking. Such links will be lead to sites that are intended to compromise electronic devices and steal personal information. 

Conclusion

Many people are now working from home, possibly lacking the internet security features that they normally have in the office. As we face the stresses of this unprecedented situation, we must take care not to let our guard down and let in those who see the pandemic as an opportunity, not a threat.


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