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Maritime crew warned about scammers cashing in on Covid-19

4 June 2020

Seafarers are warned to be on their guard against coronavirus scammers.

Scammers are using robocalls, text messages, emails and social media ads offering financial help, or selling bogus treatments and cures. The scams include:

  • phone calls from people pretending to work for government health agencies offering the opportunity to get on a waiting list for a vaccine when it becomes available — a credit card number is required to get on the list
  • pop-up ads for cures that don't exist
  • fake puppy and kitten websites, since the stay-safe-at-home protocols have created a demand for pets
  • offers to help secure or speed up government relief payments — provided you pay a fee and reveal your National Insurance number and banking information

There has been reports of criminals posing as healthcare workers in the UK and US. In the US some scammers have set up fake mobile Covid-19 testing sites in car parks, charging victims hundreds of dollars for a bogus test.

In the UK a checklist of what the Covid-19 test contact tracers will never do is published within the government's Test and Trace guidance advice, to help users avoid scams.

Wired magazine also has advice on how to avoid potential scammers posing as NHS contact tracers. 

Age UK reported doorstep scams, where fake NHS teams turn up at a person's door claiming to be doing at home testing, when in fact they are thieves taking advantage of people self-isolating.

In April the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it took down more than 2,000 online coronavirus scams, including 471 fake online shops that were selling fraudulent virus-related items. It has also set up a suspicious email reporting service (SERS)


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