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Crooks have leapt on the vaccine roll-out across the UK to try to scam people into handing over their credit or debit card details. Criminals have started to send out text messages with a link to a form purporting to be from the NHS. Recipients are told they are now eligible for the vaccine, but need to fill in a form to be processed for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which is being rolled out across the UK right now.
Clicking the link included in the text message to fill-out the form loads a website which asks for a number of personal details, including a credit card number. The National Health Service is free at the point of use and there is no charge or deposit required to be processed for the current vaccination programme.
Anyone who receives the text message should delete it immediately. If you have already submitted the form with your credit card details included – you should contact your bank to enquire about changing your credit card number with a replacement.
These scams are nothing unusual – these tactics have been used in the past to trick people into mistakenly believing they have an Amazon Gift Card to claim in the run-up to Christmas, or that their Netflix password has been compromised. However, what makes this latest scam so insidious is that it’s directly targeting elderly and vulnerable people.
These groups are the most likely to be in line for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination. Sadly, they’re also more likely to fall prey to these types of scams as they might not be as familiar with technology as younger members in their families, or might not have encountered this type of online scam before. That’s something cyber crooks are clearly hoping they can rely on.
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Concerned users who have received the scam message have taken to social media to share the text message. One user targeted in the scam posted: “Website looks very real but clearly a scam.”
Unfortunately, text messages aren’t the only method used by crooks at the moment. Elderly residents in Merseyside have already reported receiving telephone calls about the vaccine in the days before Christmas. These recorded messages prompted residents to book non-existent Covid-19 vaccine appointments. Like the new text scam, the phone call asked them to put in their financial details.
For those who are at highest risk from the coronavirus, it could be tempting to take a chance on these scam calls.
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Peter Hazlewood, group financial crime risk director at Aviva, told Metro: “Fraudsters are exploiting the pandemic to take advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable. They are using coronavirus as a pretext to lure potential victims.
“The scams range from attempts to sell people unsuitable insurance to, at worst, stealing their entire retirement savings. The impact on victims is not just financial either, it has a detrimental effect on people’s mental wellbeing too.”
According to the latest figures from the Local Government Association (LGA), some councils in the UK have seen a 40 percent increase in reported scams since the start of the public health crisis.
Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has created the ideal environment for fraudsters to prey on people’s fears and vulnerabilities during this period of financial uncertainty.
“Everyone should be wary of any unsolicited emails, texts or calls offering insurance, pension or investment products. Make sure your personal devices are supported by the latest security updates and antivirus software to minimise threats.”
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