Fraudsters exploit Covid-19 vaccine rollout confusion with email scam, NHS warns

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The NHS has warned UK residents that scammers are attempting to exploit confusion around the ongoing pandemic to steal bank details and personal information with fraudulent invitations about Covid-19 vaccine appointments.

Images of one such scam email circulating online show that it claims to be a “public health message from NHS” asking recipients to click a link to accept or decline their invitation. Once someone has clicked the link, the fraudulent site asks people for their bank details to supposedly verify their identity before requesting a payment.

Lots of reports overnight from people who have received this scam email.We can confirm it is a scam and the links take you to a website that asks for financial details to pay for the vaccine.Please forward it to @NCSC at:- Report@Phishing.Gov.UK pic.twitter.com/jvZcz3AQvS

— Essex Trading Standards (@EssexTS) January 26, 2021

The NHS responded to reports of the scam by clearly stating that it would never ask someone for their bank details or personal documentation in order for people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, as it’s free of charge.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free of charge on the NHS.We will never ask for:❌ your bank account or card details❌ your pin or banking password❌ copies of personal documents to prove your identity such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips. pic.twitter.com/fZtLhBAMCp

— NHS (@NHSuk) January 25, 2021

According to a cybersecurity consultant who spoke to the BBC, data from the scammer’s website showed thousands had been duped into clicking the link, though they aren’t able to tell how many people have gone ahead and filled in the form.

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Katherine Hart, from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, who has been tracking scams since the start of the pandemic, warned that “at every stage of response, unscrupulous individuals have modified their campaigns to defraud the public.”

The vaccine brings great hope for an end to the pandemic and lockdowns, but some only wish to create even further misery by defrauding others.

This is the latest attempt by fraudsters to exploit the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine. Earlier this month, the NHS warned that fake text messages were being sent out to try to steal people’s bank details.

Be aware of COVID-19 scams!Reports have been received of fraudulent text messages being sent to the public informing them that the COVID-19 vaccine is available to them. ⚠️Read below for more info: pic.twitter.com/keBNYa7kli

— South Western Ambulance Service (@swasFT) January 22, 2021

Alongside digital scams, there have been reports of fraudsters calling to people’s doors in an attempt to sell fake personal protective equipment or pretending to be from the Covid-19 test and trace service, demanding payments.

These fraudulent activities appear largely targeted at elderly or vulnerable people who are in the UK’s first priority group for vaccines and are likely seen as more susceptible to these kinds of scams.

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