We’re now using online services more than ever and the National Cyber Security Centre has detected a huge increase in online criminals using COVID-19 as a cover for scams and cyber attacks.
Spotting COVID-19 related scams
There are a number of ways criminals will try to disrupt your online activities or steal your information using COVID-19 as a cover:
- Look out for unsolicited emails claiming to be from the UK Government or NHS with ‘COVID-19’, ‘Coronavirus’ in the header. Do not click on any links they may contain (this is known as ‘phishing’).
- Be wary of text messages which appear to be from the UK Government or NHS which include links or requests for replies (this is known as ‘smishing’).
- Don’t accept requests that appear to come from sites and services such as Whatsapp, Microsoft Teams or Zoom unless you are certain they are from someone you know.
General Online Safety
- Make sure you download all software updates as they contain vital security updates to help protect your devices from cyber criminals.
- Turn on two-factor authentication on your email to make sure your data is secure.
- If you believe you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately on a number you know to be correct.
- Question claims that you’re due money for goods or services that you haven’t ordered or are unaware of, especially if you have to pay any fees upfront.
- Question uninvited approaches and contact companies directly using a known email or phone number.
- Have different passwords for all your accounts and systems.
- Use random words and symbols in your passwords.
- NEVER include personal details in your passwords e.g. your partners name, pets name or date of birth.
- If you are in doubt, call it out - if you are uncertain about an email you receive report it or delete it. You can forward suspicious emails to email@example.com.
- To spot a phishing email look for urgent calls to action, generic address e.g. dear friend, poor quality images and spelling mistakes.
- Most websites, apps and social networks you can share information on have ‘privacy settings’. Use these to help you control what and who you share it with.
- Don’t accept people you don’t know on your social media accounts.
- There has been an increase in criminals using text messages to scam consumers. Please always refrain from clicking on any links contained within text messages.
- If you suspect a spam text you can report it to your mobile network provider by forwarding it to 7726.
Where to get more information
Get Safe Online is a site providing practical advice on how to protect yourself, your devices (and even your business) against fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other problems encountered online. There’s also guidance on looking after your IT kit and even tips on safe online shopping, gaming and dating.
The NCSC is the government agency which provides cyber security advice to protect you and your family, and the technology you rely on. The site is full of useful advice and guidance on a range of topics, especially if you have been a victim of cyber crime.
The UK Safer Internet Centre promotes the safe and responsible use of technology for young people. There are films, storybooks and links to other fun sites with plenty of information to help young people enjoy their time online and stay safe on the internet.
Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime where you should report fraud if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber crime.
AgeUK have put together lots of easy to understand guidance about avoiding online scams, keeping your information safe and protecting your devices.