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With cases of Covid-19 increasing across the UK and with the country now plunged into yet another lockdown the most vulnerable to this devastating virus are desperately waiting to receive the newly approved Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines. Sadly, it appears that cyber criminals are now preying on people who believe they are next in line to get these life-saving jabs.
Police are warning that a growing number of scams are appearing which can leave people facing substantial phone bills or give hackers access to personal bank accounts. One recent scam that’s been spotted asks people to press a number on their telephone keypad if they want to get the vaccine. However, this is actually a premium rate call which is then charged to the account holder.
A similar attack asks UK residents to send a simple text message on their smartphone for access to the Covid-19 vaccine but again this is trick which only leaves people with a nasty premium rate phone bill and no jab.
Most worrying is that some scammers are also offering the vaccine in return for a small fee. This requires the recipient of the call to hand over bank details which can then be used by the hackers to steal money.
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In a post on its website, Northamptonshire Police said: “People are warned to be alert to these scams. The vaccine is free and your surgery or the NHS will never ask you for money or your bank details.
“They will also not call you and ask you to press any numbers on your keypad or send them any text messages.
“The vaccine is only available from the NHS and your GP surgery will contact you when it is your turn.”
It’s worth noting that, at present, appointments are only being offered to some people aged 80 and over who already have a hospital appointment in the next few weeks, people who live or work in care homes and health care workers at high risk.
If you receive a call or text from someone you don’t know offering you a vaccine it could be a scam.
To help avoid being a target, police have issued some guidelines and advice, including:
• If the call is real you will never be asked to press a button on your keypad or send a text asking you to confirm you want the vaccine.
• If the call is real you will never ask for payment for the vaccine or for your bank details.
• If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. If you require consumer advice please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.
In an address to the country last night, Boris Johnson vowed to deliver the vaccine to the most vulnerable in weeks with a large part of the population getting the jab by mid-February.
“If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus. And that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long,” Mr Johnson said.
“If everyone plays their part by following the rules then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown.”
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