The new lockdown has provided criminals with the perfect opportunity to increase their efforts.
When the pandemic first hit, it brought with it a whole new revenue stream for cyber criminals, exploiting what was already a very tough situation for personal gain. It has been reported that criminals in the UK alone have leveraged the crisis to steal more than £2M from victims using many scam variants (from bogus WHO donations to the sale of fake cures).
Unfortunately, both the new lockdown and early stages of vaccine rollout have provided criminals with the perfect opportunity to increase their efforts, most often by impersonating official sources in order to conduct fraud. For example:
- NHS Scotland warned that scammers have been attempting to defraud NHS and social care workers of the one-off £500 ‘thank you’ payment (announced by the First Minister on 30 November) by contacting them by email or phone and requesting financial and personal details.
- Criminals have been sending SMS messages claiming to be from the NHS and stating that the recipient is eligible for a vaccine. The messages usually contain a link which if followed, leads to a bogus payment request.
- Impersonation of HMRC and other official government bodies is also prevalent; usually via Phishing emails and SMS messages and on the premise of providing tax reductions or grants relating to the pandemic. This excellent article from the Independent provides further examples.
What should we do to guard against such scams?
The best defence against these types of scams is to be suspicious of any unsolicited contact, be it via email, phone, or SMS. It is highly unlikely that any reputable organisation will contact you in this way to request personal or financial information. If you are at all unsure, verify the sender independently by checking contact information from official sources.
- You’ll find guidance on protecting yourself and the University from cybercrime in Toolkit’s Information Security resource.
- The National Cyber Security Centre have released an excellent Cyber Security guide for Individuals and Families
Author: Information Security Team, DDIS