Coronavirus: Brits lose £3.5m to COVID-19 scams

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Over 1,700 people have fallen victim to scams linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images)

Brits have lost a staggering £3.5m ($4.2m) to COVID-19-related scams, according to new figures.

Action Fraud said on Friday that 1,713 people had now lost £3,534,983 to coronavirus-related scam emails and calls. The figures suggest victims lose on average £2,000 each.

The watchdog said it was aware of 7,796 phishing emails linked to coronavirus, where fraudsters pose as legitimate companies in a bid to scam people out of their bank account details. Action Fraud urged not to share their personal details over unsolicited emails and not to transfer money if requested.

Read more: Campaign launched to tackle online coronavirus scammers

Scams include a fake COVID-19 voucher apparently offered by Tesco and a WhatsApp offer claiming to be from Morrisons. Both are fake.

Friday’s figures show scams continue to proliferate despite prior warnings from Action Fraud. The watchdog said at the end of April that 1,072 victims had lost £2m to coronavirus-linked scams.

However, Action Fraud said coronavirus-linked scams still make up just 3% of all cases it deals with.

Read more: Scammers targeting shoppers with bogus Tesco and Morrisons vouchers

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the City of London police last month launched a service allowing the public to report suspicious COVID-19 emails they suspect are scams. Since then, the public have flagged 160,000 emails and 1,400 scams have been taken offline. They include bogus adverts for face masks, COVID-19 testing kits, and even vaccines.

Ciaran Martin, Chief Executive of the NCSC, said in a statement earlier this month: “I would urge people to remain vigilant and to forward suspect emails to us. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”