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Coronavirus: Victim loses £15k on face masks that were never delivered amid rise in virus-related scams

Twenty-one cases of fraud, with losses totalling more than £800,000, recorded by National Fraud Intelligence Bureau throughout February

Samuel Lovett
Friday 06 March 2020 14:31 GMT
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Victims of coronavirus-related scams lost close to £1m in February, according to officials, amid a rise in reported cases of fraud throughout the UK.

Fraudsters are cashing in the current climate of fear surrounding the deadly pathogen, otherwise known as Covid-19, with one business owner losing £15,000 after buying a bulk load of protective face masks that were never delivered.

A total of 21 cases of fraud, with losses totalling more than £800,000, were recorded by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) last month.

The figure includes 10 scams where victims tried to buy protective masks from fraudulent websites found on the internet.

The remaining 11 cases include payment diversion frauds, a romance fraud – one scammer claimed to need money to fund their hospital treatment for coronavirus – and ticket fraud, where non-existent cheap flights were offered.

Other reports involved coronavirus-themed phishing emails designed to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive information.

A common tactic used by scammers is to send messages purporting to be from research groups linked with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

They claim to be able to provide a list of people infected with Covid-19, which links to a malicious website, or asks the victim to make a payment in Bitcoin.

Paul Carroll, chief inspector of the NFIB, advised that it was “important to take your time when making a purchase online and not to rush”.

“When you’re online shopping, do your research,” he told The Independent. “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.”

The number of reported scams are expected to rise as the virus, which has so far infected close to 100,000 people and killed more than 3,200, continues to spread across the globe.

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