Be Vigilant to COVID-19 Scams

Action Fraud reported that between 1st February 2020 and 18th March 2020, Coronavirus-related frauds increased by 400%.

These frauds include phishing emails and online shopping scams. Throughout this situation we may all at times become vulnerable to these attacks. In times of desperation when trying to purchase supplies for staff or personal use, and when trying to keep up to date with current events, it’s easy to become a victim.

Here are some of the common COVID-19 scams:

Online Shopping

Fake websites are being set up to sell in-demand items. This includes protective face masks, hand sanitiser and other cleaning products. These items then never arrive.

If you can find these products for sale online, question how they are available given the current shortages. Similarly, have you used or heard of this site before? Is the connection on your browser showing as a trusted site? Make sure you do some research and try to find reviews or comments from others who may have purchased from the website.

If you feel confident in the site, use a credit card to make payment. Most major credit card providers will insure your online purchase.

Phishing Emails

There are four common phishing emails currently being reported to Norfolk Police. These false emails will try to steal private information from you including passwords and bank details. The four trends reported recently include emails for fake cures, Coronavirus tax refunds, World Health Organisation (WHO) impersonations and Bitcoin payments asking for donations towards a cure.

These emails often look like they come from trusted sources such as HMRC, WHO, or various Government departments. If you are not expecting the email, do not click on any links or download attachments. Inspect the email carefully as fake emails can be hidden behind the ‘From’ section of the email. Look out for spelling mistakes, threatening language and requests for personal information.

Don’t be afraid to get in touch with the sender impersonated to check if the email you received is legitimate. In doing so, you may allow these organisations to make others aware of the scam.


‘SMS phishing’ is similar to email phishing, but uses text messages. Posts are currently circulating of a smishing scam posing as the UK Government offering payment. In addition, the text message includes a link to a fake Gov.UK website where you can apply for funds. Once again, be on the lookout for spelling errors, suspicious links or offers. This includes funding schemes that you have not heard about on the news.

Be aware that there will be other types of scams out there that we haven’t listed above. For more information on spotting these attacks, view our guide to spotting phishing attacks. Download our guide to phishing attacks here.

Cyber Aware Campaign Launched

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a Cyber Aware campaign designed to generate awareness around these scams. They are also offering advice and have launched a ‘Suspicious Email Reporting Service’. This service allows you to forward suspicious emails for checking. Additionally, phishing sites found hidden within the email will be shut down.

NCSC has listed the following top five tips to stay secure online:

  1. Turn on two-factor authentication for important accounts
  2. Protect important accounts using a password of three random words
  3. Create a separate password that you only use for your main email account
  4. Update the software and apps on your devices regularly (ideally set to ‘automatically update’)
  5. Save your passwords in your browser
  6. Back up important data. This will help you protect yourself from being held to ransom

If you need support or advice on any of the above, don’t hesitate to get in touch. For full details on the NCSC campaign and reporting, visit their website.

Discover how Breakwater can help your business. Call our team today on +44 (0)1603 709300 or email

David Loveridge

Projects Engineer

As a Projects Engineer, I support Breakwater and our clients with some of the more in-depth technology strategies, offering my experience and advice to ensure the right solutions are delivered to schedule.

View my profile >

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