Coronavirus scam calls and texts

13 August 2021

We have received reports of scam calls and texts relating to the coronavirus, or Covid-19.

Scammers are calling home phones and sending text messages to mobile phones, which contain misinformation or could leave you out of pocket if you fall victim.

Some calls and texts claim to be from the Government, your GP’s surgery, the NHS, or even the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In the calls, a recorded message or caller will claim to be contacting you about the coronavirus. They might offer a test for the virus, a treatment or cure, or might offer to discuss your medical needs.

However, these calls are designed to encourage you to either speak to an operator, or press a button on your phone for more information.

  • If you speak to an operator, you could be at risk of giving them your personal information or your financial details, which could result in identity theft or financial loss.
  • If you press a button on your phone you could be connected to a high-cost premium number, leaving you liable for a significant call cost.

Scam texts – what to look out for

Meanwhile, scam texts often include links or attachments which can’t be trusted. Don’t click on them.

Here’s an example of a scam text, claiming to be sent by the Government, offering a payment related to the coronavirus. On the left is the text; on the right is the web page you’ll be taken to if you click on the link in the text.

However, look at the URL – it does not link to the UK Government website. It is a fake website which requires you to enter your personal details – it is a phishing scam.

Some scam texts purport to be from the government, but they are actually phishing scams.

We have also heard of a scam text that mimics official Government text alerts. This scam text, pictured below, claims you are being fined for leaving your home, and encourages you to click on a link. This is an untrustworthy link and you should not click on it.

scam text message fining the recipient for leaving home during the covid-19 outbreak fine

If you think one of these calls or texts might be genuine – from your GP for example – you can call your GP’s surgery separately to check whether they have tried to contact you.

Calls claiming to be from Ofcom

Some of these scam calls also claim to be from Ofcom.

A recorded message or caller will claim that, because of more people working from home due to coronavirus, your broadband needs to be slowed down or switched off. As with the scam calls outlined above, they will try to encourage you to either speak to an operator, or press a button for more information. If you do this, you could face the same risks.

Ofcom will never call you out of the blue like this. If you receive one of these calls claiming to be from us, please hang up.

Official Government text alerts

While keeping an eye out for scam calls and texts, remember that the Government has been sending out official alerts to mobile phones. They are being sent out gradually, so you’ll receive one depending on which mobile network you’re on.

These are legitimate messages that contain updates on the latest Government advice. This could relate to rules for lockdowns, for example.

These texts come from ‘UK_Gov’ and look like this:

The Government has been sending out official alerts to mobile phones: these texts come from 'UK_Gov'.

As well as looking like this, the texts use the same wording regardless of which mobile network you’re on.

If you receive a message that is different to this one, it is unlikely to be an official Government message. You should therefore ignore it, delete it and report it.

Phishing scam related to the Government's coronavirus tracking app

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has also reported a phishing scam based on the Government’s coronavirus tracking app. Some people have received a text that looks like this.

An example of a phishing scam reported by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. This is not an official text, and the link should not be trusted.

Credit: CTSI

This is not an official text, and the link should not be trusted. It takes users through to a website where they are asked to provide their personal information. If you receive a text like this, please ignore it and delete it. You can also report scams like these to Action Fraud.

Covid-19 vaccination scams

Regional Trading Standards authorities have received reports of scams relating to Covid-19 vaccinations. Victims are contacted out of the blue by telephone or text and are encouraged to either press a number key on their telephone or click on a link in a text message. These are scams, designed to fool their victims into handing over personal or financial details to criminals. Legitimate contact for Covid-19 vaccinations will come from the NHS, who will not ask for you for personal or financial details.

An example of a text message, purporting to be from the NHS, claiming that "we have identified that your are eligible to apply for your vaccine”

Credit: Which?

The text message links to a fake NHS website that asks for your personal details – this is a phishing scam and if you have clicked on the link you should not enter any details on the website.

A screenshot of a convincing but fake NHS website. The user is asked to provide their personal details, and even their bank/card details

Credit: Which?

We have been made aware of scam emails relating to coronavirus vaccinations. These claim to have been sent by the NHS, but they are in fact phishing emails sent by scammers. These emails are quite convincing at first glance, but by checking the sender you can see where they have come from. Do not click on any links in these emails, which take you to a website that encourages you to enter your personal information.

Screenshot of a fake NHS email about fast track Covid-19 vaccinations.

What to do next

If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk. Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726, which is free of charge.

If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk. Action Fraud is the reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Reports of fraud and any other financial crime in Scotland should be reported to Police Scotland via 101.

We also have further information that could help. See our guides to dealing with nuisance calls and messages, and ‘missed call’ scams.

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