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Coronavirus scams

Criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public.  They are particularly targeting older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends. National Trading Standards is warning people to remain vigilant following a rise in coronavirus-related scams.

Members of the public should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits.  They may also be persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. Some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19. 

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COVID-19 scams include:


Online scams

  • Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments. They put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
  • Fake online resources such as false Coronavirus Maps.  They deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan.  This is an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.
  • Emails saying that you can get a refund on taxes, utilities or similar are usually bogus. They are just after your personal and bank details.

Ransom ware

Ransomware is malicious software that prevents you from accessing your computer (or data that is stored on your computer).  If your computer is infected with ransomware, the computer itself may become locked. The data on it might also be stolen, deleted or encrypted. Normally you're asked to make a payment (the ransom), in order to 'unlock' your computer (or to access your data).  However, even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee that you will get access to your computer, or your files. This is one of the reasons why it's important to always have a recent backup of your most important files and data.

Ransomware makes your data or computers unusable and asks you to make a payment to release it. If your computer is already infected with ransomware, the National Security Crime Centre have some useful recovery steps.


Organisations are being urged to follow cyber security best practice guidance.  This is to help prepare for an increase in home and remote working in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has published advice for UK companies to reduce the risk of cyber attack on deployed devices.  This includes laptops, mobiles and tablets.  There are also tips to help staff spot typical signs of phishing scams.


As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise.  This includes criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.

Your bank or the police will never ask for your bank details over the phone.

There are new mobile phone applications that claim to give you updates on the virus.  Instead, they lock your phone and demand a ransom.

 A recent trend is for an automated call claiming to be from HMRC. The caller will tell you that will be arrested if you do not pay an outstanding bill, and then asks you to press a key to speak to an advisor.


Donation scams

There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.

Loan sharks

Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship. Lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence.

Refund scams

Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.

Counterfeit goods

Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde).  This was banned for human use in 2014.


Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.

Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Puppy Sales

This year has seen a large increase in puppy scams. Buyers will be asked to pay a deposit to secure the dog and cover vet fees, usually without seeing it. The seller’s address will often be local to the buyer; but once the deposit is paid the seller will be uncontactable.

There are also increasing numbers of complaints about puppies which become poorly within a few days of being purchased. These are often from puppy farms, who sell the dogs through networks of dealers across the UK. These dogs will often have sever underlying medical conditions and will have been separated from their mothers too early. Always make sure you do your research before buying. Follow these tips from the RSPCA to avoid buying from a puppy farmer.

Solar Panels

If you have solar panels, you may be contacted by firms claiming that your original supplier has stopped trading and that they have taken over the contract. They may have information on your original installation details, so may sound convincing. Recent cases have shown that this is a scam designed to sign you up to a new service and maintenance contract. Never agree to contracts following a cold call.


Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals. While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents. Often older people or people living with long-term health conditions.  They are cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support. Consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.

People are being encouraged to protect their neighbours by joining Friends Against Scams.  It provides free online training to empower people to take a stand against scams. To complete the online modules, visit the Friends Against Scams website.

National Trading Standards is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams through its Friends Against Scams initiative.

Members of the public are being urged to keep in contact with family members regularly and inform them of the most prolific scams.  As well as the possible dangers to them. If someone has been targeted by a scam it can be reported to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, visit the citizens advice website.

Tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Be cautious and listen to your instincts. Don’t be afraid to hang up, bin it, delete it or shut the door.
  • Take your time; don’t be rushed.
  • If someone claims to represent a charity, ask them for ID. Be suspicious of requests for money up front. If someone tempts you into accepting a service they are unlikely to be genuine. Check with family and friends before accepting offers of help if you are unsure.
  • If you are online, be aware of fake news and use trusted sources such as or websites. Make sure you type the addresses in and don’t click on links in emails.
  • Only purchase goods from legitimate retailers and take a moment to think before parting with money or personal information.
  • Know who you’re dealing with. If you need help, talk to someone you know or get in touch with the council.
  • Protect your financial information, especially from people you don’t know. Never give your bank card or PIN to a stranger.