Police and local authorities have issued warnings about a scam text telling you to book a PCR test after being in contact with someone who has Covid. Scam texts are being sent across the country as people prepare to pay for lateral flow tests for the first time.
The text, which appears to be from NHS Test and Trace – takes you to a site where you are then asked to pay to book a PCR test. But the NHS will never ask you to pay for a PCR test. Instead this scam allows conmen to have your bank details – which they can use to drain your account.
Detective Inspector Pete Hankins, from Hertfordshire Police Serious Fraud and Cyber Unit, said: “Fraudsters are very quick to adapt their tactics to take advantage of circumstances, like the pandemic. If you receive any unsolicited messages or calls, you should always be sceptical.
“Avoid clicking links in text and email messages, check out the website directly via a search engine to make sure you are visiting a genuine site.”
Elizabeth Kirk, Senior Trading Standards Officer at Cornwall Council, said: “These texts can seem very genuine, but the NHS, government or Public Health Cornwall would never send messages like this from a mobile phone. The most important thing is to remember that the scammers want you to click a link. If you click the link, you could enable them to download malware, viruses or other nasties.
“It might also give them access to your passwords for internet banking or any other sites you access from your phone.”
Councillor Martyn Alvey, Cornwall Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Protection, added: “Scam calls and texts to mobile phones are a serious problem and some are extremely convincing. “I would urge anyone who receives a text message that they are unsure about to think twice before clicking any links or divulging any personal information and seek advice.
“For advice on scams call 0808 223 1133 and to report scams call 0300 123 2040. The more you respond to scams, the more you will be targeted.”
A spokesman for Derbyshire Police said: “Please be aware and avoid clicking links if you are suspicious. You can read more about the types of messages the NHS may send you about coronavirus on their website: https://faq.covid19.nhs.uk/article/KA-01317/en-us
“If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, you can contact us via the details below and should also make a report to Action Fraud. If you receive a suspicious text message, you should also forward it, free of charge to 7726 to help get scam websites taken down.”
Hertfordshire Constabulary has issued the following advice:
– Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or texts from senders you do not know;
– Never give out personal information, financial details or passwords in response to an email, text or phone call without verifying that the person is who they claim to be;
– Block any numbers that arouse suspicion;
– Set up spam filters on all of your accounts;
– Always go to a website directly, by typing out the address yourself, when logging into an account;
– Keep an eye out for numerous spelling mistakes in messages, these are normally linked to phishing emails and texts;
– Report any offences to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or online at actionfraud.police.uk;
– Forward suspicious texts to Action Fraud’s text number 7726, for free;
– Call 119 to check with a genuine NHS professional if you have any doubts.
Cornwall Council have provided information on what to do if you click the link accidentally. The Council said you should:
- Close the web page it opened as soon as possible to prevent further harm.
- NEVER enter passwords or other personal information onto any page you have opened by clicking a link.
- Reset any passwords you may have revealed.
- Update your phone’s operating system.
- Block the number that the text came from.
- Report the scam to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime, run by the City of London Police. Visit the website or call them on 0300 123 2040.