Some fraudsters are trying to exploit the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity for financial crime by posing as trusted organisations like banks and even the World Health Organisation.
They may pretend to offer a safe haven for your money or medical guidance. They’ll then try to trick you into making a payment into a safe account, giving personal or financial information.
Typically, they’ll get in touch through:
- phone calls
- social media posts
Remember, HSBC will never ask you for any PINs or passwords or to move money to a safe account.
How to report it
If you think you've been the victim of a coronavirus scam, report it to us as soon as possible on 03456 002 290.
You can also visit the Take Five website for more help on protecting yourself against fraud.
We also have our scams leaflet (PDF, 331.1KB) which tells you more about how to stay safe online.
Criminals are targeting NHS workers with fake texts offering a goodwill payment from HMRC because of coronavirus. HMRC won’t text, email or call about tax rebates or penalties so this could be a scam.
Safe account scam
Fraudsters are exploiting coronavirus by offering the chance to move your money to a fake safe account. We'll never ask you to do this. If you're suspicious, hang up or don’t reply to the message.
Fraudsters are using coronavirus to offer fake goods, such as face masks and hand gel. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Use secure payment methods and only buy from sites you trust.
Fake testing kits
Beware of fraudsters pretending to be medical professionals, promising coronavirus testing kits for a fee. Don't be rushed into a decision. Only criminals will try to rush and panic you.
Other examples of fraud and scams
We’re seeing criminals pretending to be from HMRC and offering a goodwill payment from the coronavirus fund. Again, HMRC won’t email, text or call about tax rebates or penalties so this could be a scam. Look out for generic greetings like 'Dear customer', bad spelling and odd addresses.
If you receive a message that does look genuine, go to the HMRC website on your browser to check the information given there tallies with what's in your message.
Government impersonation scams
On 24 March, the UK Government sent a text to the public asking people to stay at home. This was legitimate. However, fraudsters are also impersonating the Government, sending texts to people claiming they’re being fined for leaving their home more than once a day.
Customers in vulnerable circumstances are receiving unsolicited emails offering insurance and investments. Phishing is an attempt by fraudsters to 'fish' for personal information such as the security details you use for banking. They send an email to as many email addresses as they can, claiming to come from a legitimate organisation such as a bank, online payment service, retailer or similar.
We’ve seen confirmed Authorised Push Payment (APP) scams with payment references mentioning coronavirus or COVID-19. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the fake caller used the virus as a conversation starter. They may have used these words in the payment reference to make it look more genuine to us.
Some business customers are being targeted too. They're being invited to purchase a “COVID Bond” or being told to send money to a different account because their account is being frozen by a foreign government.
Buying and selling
Watch out for scammers exploiting the demand for things like face masks, test kits and hand sanitiser by selling fake or non-existent products online. Only use sites you trust and be wary of requests to pay via bank transfer. Also look out for deals that appear too good to be true – they probably are.
Some parents have received fake emails telling them their child is entitled to free school meals. Parents are then asked to send their bank details so they can get help with funding while schools are closed. Please remember, schools will never ask for your bank details via email.
There have been cases of fraudsters targeting the elderly and vulnerable, offering to do their shopping or other odd jobs. This may seem like a genuine act of kindness, but fraudsters are taking money or cards and never returning.
If you can, please only accept help from friends, neighbours or those you know and trust.
Be aware of scammers capitalising on current stock market volatility. They may unexpectedly contact you through emails and phone calls with:
- an attractive investment offer on new shares
- a report on investments you already have
- a share dealing discount
These tactics are also called ‘boiler room’ scams, as criminals will often pressure you into investing.