Surrey and Sussex Police warns residents after rise in Covid-19 Omicron vaccine scam
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Surrey and Sussex Police are warning residents to stay alert to rising scams relating to the Covid-19 vaccine and more recently, scams related to the omicron variant.
Fraudsters are sending phishing emails and texts, making cold calls and directly door stepping people with offers of a Covid-19 vaccine. Often, they claim to be from the NHS and direct victims to an authentic looking website where they’re asked for their personal details.
They will typically take money from the victim by charging for the vaccine or by harvesting their personal and financial details which they will use to sell or take money from their bank account.
In just one week, three separate incidents have been reported to Surrey and Sussex Police.
A 74-year-old female from Brighton was initially contacted by text stating that the sender was a representative of the NHS and that she had come into contact with someone who had the Omicron variant of Covid-19. She was asked via text to follow a link, where she would have to pay £1.34 for packaging fees for an Omicron test, she input her bank details to order the test. Shortly after she was contact by a male on the phone who claimed to be a staff member of Santander and stated that her bank account has been subject to fraudulent activity. As such she was told by this male that a new account had been set up for her. The male went onto say that she would need to transfer £4,500 from her current account into the new one. At this point she became suspicious, terminated the call, and then contacted the police.
A 68-year-old female from West Sussex had transferred approximately £25,000.00 to a bank account following a text message she received initially stating she had been in contact with someone with COVID. She received a text on 11 February stating that she had been in contact with someone with COVID and the message gave a link to order a test at a cost of £1.43. The victim clicked into the link and entered her bank details to pay the rest. The next morning, she received a call from a male called stating he was from the HSBC fraud team and the number he called from was the same number that appears on the back of her HSBC bank card.She therefore believed this call to be legitimate due to this, however it is believed the number had been spoofed. He told her they could see her accounts had been compromised and therefore wanted to move her money to a safe account. She transferred over £25,000 in total into the fraudsters bank account.
An 84-year-old man from Epsom received a text message from someone who has stated that the he had been in touch with someone who had COVID and he had to pay £1.30 to get a COVID test kit. Luckily the victim realised it was a scam before any money had been paid out.
Bernadette Lawrie BEM the Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Sussex and Surrey Police said: “We continue to see heartless fraudsters exploiting the pandemic to target individuals when they are at their most vulnerable. We would urge the public to be aware of the tactics being used including spoofing telephone numbers so they appear legitimate and remind people that the Covid-19 vaccines and NHS testing services are free and will not request your bank card details.”
All incidents of fraud should be reported to Action Fraud which is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. You can also report by calling 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm.
If a victim of fraud is elderly or vulnerable, reports can be made directly to Surrey Police in order for a Safeguarding intervention to take place.
Scams often operate across geographic boundaries and we work together with a number of national partners to build a bigger picture of how and where scams are operating. Your information can help. If you have you received a suspicious phishing email, text, or phone call you can help tackle these types of scams by informing our partner agencies:
What to do if you receive a suspicious email?
• Email: forward it to the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) via [email protected]
What to do if you receive a suspicious text message?
• Text message: forward to 7726. This free-of-charge short code enables your provider to investigate the origin of the text and take action, if found to be malicious.
What to do if you receive a suspicious phone call?
• Phone calls / Social media: report these to Action Fraud via their website: actionfraud.police.uk/report-phishing