Local councils from the counties of Pembrokeshire, Manchester and Norfolk have issued warnings to local residents against scams using the COVID-19 outbreak to exploit fear and uncertainty through text messages and emails posing as an official health organization.
Scammers are claiming to be able to provide a list of COVID-positive residents in their area for an undisclosed sum of bitcoin and are faking legitimacy by posing as the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The warnings come soon after U.K’s Financial Conduct Authority warned investors that scammers may attempt to take advantage of the global pandemic crisis.
The warning was delivered on the same day the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic with more than 350,000 infected at the time.
Malicious text messages
There’s also been a flurry of text messages posing as “UKGOV” – an apparent mimic of the official Gov.uk domain – offering a payment of £458 ($558) to all residents as part of its promise to battle COVID-19 and directing them to a malicious website via a text message link.
An alert from Action Fraud, the U.K.’s national fraud and crime reporting center, revealed 21 reports of fraud relating to the deadly coronavirus with victim losses totaling over 800,000 British pounds (US$982,000) since February, according to government websites.
Out of the 21 reports, 10 were lodged by victims that had attempted to purchase face masks from deceitful sellers. One victim reported losing over £15,000 when they purchased face masks in bulk that were never delivered, echoing behavior in the U.S. from fake merchants.
Action Fraud has also received multiple reports about COVID-19 related phishing emails attempting to fool people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive financial information.
Elsewhere, a number of government bodies have also issued coronavirus warnings, including the U.S. states of Georgia, Nebraska, Utah and Oregon, plus the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Malta.