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COVID-19: Authorities across Europe warn of coronavirus-related scams

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COVID-19: Authorities across Europe warn of coronavirus-related scams
Copyright  Jenny Kane/AP
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Scammers have been taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities across Europe have warned.

Cyber-security police in the UK have said that coronavirus-related fraud claims have jumped by 400 per cent so far in March, with losses totalling over €1 million to date.

The majority of reports are related to orders of equipment, from face masks to hand sanitisers, that never arrived, according to a statement released by the National Fraud and Cyber Security Centre,

The organisation also warned of coronavirus-themed phishing emails, where if one clicks a link, the fraudster could steal personal data, email logins or banking details.

Scammers have been seen to mimic groups such as the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), with links redirecting to a page where data is stolen.

The Revenue and Customs unit within the UK government is also warning of emails claiming to offer rebates due to Coronavirus.

In a tweet, they urged the public to be cautious of texts, emails or calls directing to a site or asking you to provide information such as names or bank details.

The German police issued a similar warning, saying that "fake emails, apparently on behalf of health authorities, the World Health Organization and other authorities, institutions and companies," are being sent with "potentially harmful attachments sent in .docx or .exe formats".

They also warned of a "Coronavirus Card" which purports to show live updates of confirmed Coronavirus cases. However, once it is clicked, "malware loads in the background, which reads passwords and accesses data on the PC".

Dutch police have urged the elderly to be cautious of phone calls from those claiming to be nurses offering to pick up groceries, adding to never give credit card details over the phone.

The WHO has issued guidance amid these scams, saying that they would never send email links unless explicitly requested.

What can you do to protect yourself against scams?

The German, Dutch and UK police provide tips on how to protect yourself against fraudsters:

  • Don't open attachments from unknown email addresses or telephone numbers.
  • Be wary of emails that claim to be sent from official bodies.
  • Follow guides to download a link from an email only when you can find the corresponding file on the company's website.
  • Be wary of payments via links on emails.
  • Don't give out personal details via telephone from those claiming to pick up groceries.
  • If a deal is too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Ensure you install the latest software updates to protect against threats.