UK banks are stepping up fraud prevention measures to protect customers from scammers eager to exploit the coronavirus pandemic with a whole range of new tricks, including fake sales of medical supplies and bogus government relief schemes. With British households effectively on lockdown, some banks said customers had already been caught out by fraudsters posing as banks, government and even health service providers to persuade victims to hand over passwords or other sensitive data.
Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland have launched social media campaigns to flag ploys. Metro Bank said its fraud team was still operating a 24-hour, seven-day service to help affected customers. The banks said scammers were using a range of methods to prey on people, with common “phishing” emails, authorised push payments (APP) and Buyer Seller scams on the rise, alongside more sophisticated “payment diversion” frauds, designed to coax businesses to part with large sums of cash.
One such example called on business owners to make a 25,000 pounds payment to a fake government support initiative called “The Central Employers Scheme” set up to cover sick pay during the outbreak. A UK banking source said another victim made a significant payment to a “COVOID Bond”, also fraudulently linked to the UK government.
The banks said such typographical errors were often made deliberately by scammers to lend authenticity to the request, particularly if the sender was posing as a CEO or colleague demanding the recipient took quick action.
The UK banking source said another customer was persuaded via email to send a cross-border payment to a scam account after fraudsters said the legitimate account had been “frozen by the Greek Government.”