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Hayes Connor warns of coronavirus scams

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Following warnings from the police that "individuals may be taking advantage of the vulnerable by posing as door-to-door coronavirus testers in order to gain access to people's properties", Hayes Connor has also warned people to be on their guard in case of coronavirus scams and phishing emails.

Earlier this week, it was discovered that fraudsters were going door-to-door pretending to offer coronavirus tests. But, it's not just doorstep criminals we need to look out for. According to Action Fraud, coronavirus scams have cost victims over £800k in just one month.

Types of coronavirus scams

In a recent blog post, Action Fraud listed the types of scams it has been seeing in relation to COVID-19. They include:

  • Online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived
  • Phishing emails purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area. To access this information the victim needs to either click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page, or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account
  • Phishing emails from fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates
  • Phishing emails from fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn. For example, emails entitled "the positive impact on staying home (Corona-virus), make thousands a day trading Bitcoin"
  • Phishing emails from fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details.

In total, Action Fraud has received over 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails.

How to protect yourself from coronavirus scams

As we all try to navigate this difficult time, it's essential that individuals remain vigilant to protect themselves from coronavirus scammers. This means:

  • Never clicking the links or attachments in suspicious emails or texts
  • Never responding to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details
  • Understanding that a genuine bank or other financial organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN or full password
  • Knowing that a legitimate bank or other business would never ask you to move money to another account for fraud reasons
  • Not assuming that an email, text or call is authentic. Just because someone knows your details (such as your name and address or even your mother's maiden name), it doesn't mean they are genuine
  • Being careful about who you trust. Criminals often try and trick people by telling them that they have been a victim of fraud and scaring them into revealing their security details
  • Knowing that criminals can make any telephone number appear on your phone handset, so even if you recognise a number, or it seems authentic, it might not be genuine
  • Not being rushed or pressured into making a decision. A trustworthy organisation would never force you to make a financial transaction on the spot
  • Listening to your instincts. If something feels wrong, then it is right to question it
  • Having the confidence to refuse requests for personal or financial information. Stop the discussion if you do not feel in control of it
  • Never hesitating to contact your bank or financial service provider on a number you trust, such as the one listed on their website or the back of your payment card
  • Being careful when making a purchase from a company or person you don't know and trust
  • 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
  • Always installing the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.

Reducing the risk of data breaches while homeworking

As businesses navigate the unprecedented coronavirus crisis and respond by increasing home and remote working, careful consideration around data security is also paramount.

Recognising the increased risks around data protection for employees working outside the office environment and implementing simple measures to mitigate the risk of a data breach is essential.

Kingsley Hayes, managing director at Hayes Connor Solicitors and data breach expert said:

"Businesses are operating in unchartered waters with no definite future forecast. The impact of the coronavirus crisis will be far reaching. Commercial survival will rely on the ability of organisations to quickly adapt working practices to keep staff and clients safe while maintaining business as usual.

"Technology facilitates the ease with which many legal practices can adapt to employees working remotely however, being mindful of potential data protection risks, and quickly implementing appropriate security measures, should be front of mind.

"The National Cyber Security Centre advises organisations to have a mobile working policy to ensure that all staff are not only aware of the increased risks, but also that all employees adopt the relevant security measures.

"The vast majority of data breaches take place due to human error. Preventing incidents can be as simple as carefully considering the remote working environment. Working from the privacy of home, rather than a public place for example, can reduce the risks.

"Appropriately limiting remote access to and storage of files and information and sending encrypted data, if possible, will also prevent costly data breach incidents. The way in which businesses operate in the current climate has changed however, data protection obligations remain the same."

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow Hayes Connor onTwitterandFacebook. Alternatively, if you have been the victim of a data breach or cyber fraud,find out how we can help you to recover any losses. Or give us a call to discuss your case in more depth.