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Tax rebate scam emails target concerned households during coronavirus crisis

By Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter

The public have been warned to watch out for scam emails posing as the Government which prey on coronavirus fears.

Hackers are exploiting the hardship and concerns faced by households across the country with false emails claiming to offer support in the form of a tax rebate, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said.

The emails attempt to dupe people by appearing official, telling people how much they can expect to claim and urging them to click a link to receive it.

Once the link is clicked, recipients are asked to provide personal details, including sensitive banking information, that allows the scammer to take money directly from their account.

“It is abhorrent that unscrupulous individuals are using this difficult time as an opportunity to immiserate others further,” said Leon Livermore, chief executive of the CTSI.

“Consumers should now be extra vigilant and aware of these new scams that take many forms.

“The general rule of scams applies – if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”

The CTSI has also asked the public to be wary of fake smartphone apps, which claim to provide updates on the virus.

One, known as CovidLock, which is available through unofficial websites, locks the phone and displays a message demanding that the user pay a sum of money to unlock it.

The fresh warning comes after guidance was issued by the UK’s cyber security agency to firms and employees adopting more work from home practices in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Advice from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – which is a part of GCHQ – tells organisations how they should prepare for increased remote working and ensure staff are vigilant with work devices that may contain sensitive data.