Catches of the month: Phishing scams for November 2020

As the UK heads back into lockdown, we expect to see a fresh wave of phishing attacks capitalising on the public’s fear and uncertainty.

At the start of the pandemic, we discussed emerging phishing scams centred on the coronavirus. Fortunately, these scams were short-lived – thanks to widespread warnings from experts and those who had already received bogus messages.

However, criminals are likely to return to these methods now that strict lockdown measures are again in place, so we need to be vigilant.

The concern is that there won’t be the same sense of collective spirit this time, because we’re eight months into the pandemic and the novelty of the situation is wearing off.

But if we are to shut down these phishing attacks, people must share scams when they receive them. Phishing thrives when people are caught off guard, so the more we know about the methods that criminals use, the safer we are.

So what exactly should you be looking out for? Here are some scams from earlier this year that could be coming back.

Government payment scheme

This scam claims that the UK government is paying all residents £258 to help them during the disruption caused by COVID-19.

That doesn’t sound too far-fetched, and it is in a similar format to the nationwide text that the government sent when the UK went into lockdown.

Fines for breaching lockdown rules

This scam takes advantage of the government’s warning that those who don’t follow lockdown protocol may receive a fine.

Once the victim is on the line, the scammers request their payment card details, and if they are met with resistance, they threaten the victim with a larger penalty.

Puppy scams

Throughout this year, hundreds of people have fallen victim to adverts selling pets that don’t exist.

The scam begins with an ad on social media or a pet sale website. When the victim has picked out the pet they want, the scammer asks them to pay a deposit, followed by funds supposedly for insurance, vaccinations and delivery.

Supermarket vouchers

Earlier this year, shoppers learned of a fake advert that supposedly offered customers a £50 voucher if they completed a short survey.

The advert sent victims to a website where they were asked to fill in their personal details and answer questions about their shopping experiences at Morrisons.

Once they completed the survey, all the victim needed to do to claim their apparent prize was share the post on Facebook and type ‘thanks’ in the comments field. Needless to say, there was no £50 reard.

Romance scams

This year has seen a significant increase in romance fraud, as people look for love online. The scams involve a criminal creating a bogus profile on an online dating platform, and messaging people to gain their trust.

Eventually, the scammer will request money for investments, legal fees or travel – after which they will cease contact.

Can you spot a scam?

Make sure your staff know how to identify and avoid scams with our Phishing Staff Awareness E-Learning Course.

This 45-minute course uses examples like the ones above to explain how phishing works, what to look out for and the steps you should take to avoid falling victim.