COVID-19 vaccine: Fraudsters seek to cash in on UK's race to inoculate against coronavirus

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By Hebe Campbell
A registered nurse prepares a syringe with the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
A registered nurse prepares a syringe with the Pfizer COVID vaccine.   -  Copyright  Rogelio V. Solis/Copyright 2020. The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The UK is leading the way in Europe on vaccinating against COVID-19.

But with that initial success has come a surge of scam communications posing as vaccine registration databases.

The Cube, Euronews' social media newsdesk, has spotted huge numbers of online users sharing screenshots of scam emails and texts.

The fraudsters pose as the UK's National Health Service (NHS) and tell potential victims they have been selected to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Those accepting the invitation are then asked to input their personal and bank details.

The NHS says it would never request bank details.

The Cube spoke to Caroline, who almost fell for a scam text message she received from a UK mobile number. Caroline had taken a survey that morning telling her roughly when she will be eligible for a vaccine.

"If I hadn't have done that (survey) ..then I would have clicked through onto that form because it did look genuine.

"I am a teacher myself and I do have to spend a lot of time warning children about how to look at things carefully that they receive, and this text message was so convincing that even though I do that as part of my job I still could have easily clicked through to that form."

On second glance, Caroline noticed spelling errors in the text indicating to her that it wasn't genuine.

“Remember, the NHS will never ask for your bank account or card details," said Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud. "Anyone asking for payment for the vaccine is committing fraud.

"If you have received a text message, email or phone call where someone has tried to charge you for the vaccine please report this to Action Fraud, even if you haven’t given them any money. Your report can help us protect others.”