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The different types of fraud to beware of during COVID-19

02 November 2020

The different types of fraud to beware of during COVID-19

During the ongoing COVID-19 virus outbreak, fraudsters globally are attempting to exploit the situation to defraud businesses and individuals. At CUA and Western Union Business Solutions, we feel it’s important to alert you to different types of fraud, and to inform you of the steps you can take to help prevent you becoming a fraud victim.

By Alex Beavan - Head of Fraud Investigation, Western Union Business Solutions

Types of Fraud:

  • Fake goods
  • Investment opportunities
  • Malicious emails
  • Fake charities
  • Fake funding

Fake goods

As the demand for resources grows and the pressure on businesses increases it’s possible many people will seek new suppliers to meet that demand.

Fraudsters are setting up fake websites and advertising across social media that they can provide goods such as face masks, ventilators, cleaning goods, foods, and domestic sanitary equipment.

The advertising will indicate that supply can be in bulk. It’s unlikely to be extremely cheap as fraudsters are aware of the sheer demand for such goods.

How to avoid

  • Only deal with a confirmed supplier, based on either a previous purchase, government authorisation, or recommendation by someone you trust who has had a successful purchase.
  • Always conduct a search on whether there is suggestion of a scam.
  • Always use sites such as WHOIS and business registrations to establish how long the ‘new’ supplier has been in existence.
  • Use open source to check out phone numbers and emails provided.

Investment opportunities

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected global markets such as the Dow Jones and FTSE 100. Shares in companies have been deeply affected which is also impacting pensions and dividends. Individuals with liquidity are avoiding financial markets until the perceived ‘bottom’ has been reached.

Fraudsters are aware of this and have been setting up fake websites and advertising investment opportunities with high returns. They may advertise investment in the Gold market or property and promise substantial returns.

The advertising encourages individuals and companies to make payments to a bank account. Literature via email will be provided and they may offer details relating to alleged registration with local financial regulators.

How to avoid

  • Only invest with a financial institution you have successfully used before, government authorised, or recommended by someone you trust who has successfully invested.
  • Always conduct open source searching around whether there is a suggestion that it is a scam. Check out the website using WHOIS and business registrations to establish how long the investment company has been in existence.
  • Review any alleged financial membership number with the appropriate website such as the FCA.
  • Such opportunities always promise excellent returns which are just not achievable. Common sense should be used in any decision making as to whether to invest.

Malicious emails

Nearly every piece of news is currently connected with COVID-19. Many Governments and companies are also sending out emails about the virus and how they are dealing with it. 

Fraudsters are pretending to be Government organisations / businesses / financial institutions and sending out fake emails designed to trick people into opening attachments that download malicious software.
These emails may have fake screenshots and imagery taken from real and related websites. 

How to avoid

  • Never click on any link or open any attachment within an email unless it’s from a known and confirmed contact.
  • If you get an email from a website you subscribed to, go directly to the website to check on your account. Do not use any link in the email you received.
  • Delete all emails you are suspicious of immediately. Clear your junk mail regularly as well as your email deletion folder.

Fake charities

The COVID-19 crisis has left a lot of individuals short of goods and also basic living requirements in certain regions.

Fraudsters are setting up fake websites pretending to be charities and appealing to businesses and individuals for monetary contributions. The websites have used the copious amount of material out in the public domain to help build their websites to give them an air of authenticity.

The fraudsters are setting up ways to make donations via bank accounts, financial institutions, and fake money services businesses.

How to avoid

  • Only use a charity that is properly registered and has been operating for a considerable amount of time.
  • Always use open source searching to confirm or deny whether an alleged charity is a suspected scam.

Fake funding

In this scam, individuals receive fake emails, text messages or social media posts asking them to donate money to a research team that is allegedly developing a drug to treat COVID-19. Others claim they are nearing a vaccine for immunising the public against the virus.

The email will take them to a donation link where they can send a donation to help the advertised cause.

The fraudsters will put imagery and videos in the emails showing people suffering but also provide some technical information apparently linked to the vaccine, as well as videos showing the vaccine being tested.

How to avoid

  • Never click on any link or open any attachment within an email not from a known and confirmed contact. The same applies to any messages via social media.
  • All such projects around vaccine development are government led and do not involve asking for donations.
  • Do not make any such donations as these are all fake.

Other steps to take

  • Ensure your contact details in relation to your bank accounts are up to date.
  • If you are concerned that you are the victim of fraud, please contact CUA as soon as possible.

© 2020 Western Union Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is a financial promotion and has been prepared and approved by Western Union International Bank GmbH, UK Branch. The information contained within this article does not constitute financial advice or a financial recommendation, is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.
Western Union Business Solutions is a business unit of the Western Union Company and provides services in the UK through Western Union’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Western Union International Bank GmbH, UK Branch (WUIB).WUIB (Branch Address:131 Finsbury Pavement, London, EC2A 1NT) is a branch of Western Union International Bank GmbH (registered in Austria, company number FN256184t,VAT Number ATU61347377, with its registered office at The Icon Vienna (Turm 24), Wiedner Gürtel 13, 1100 Vienna, Austria), which is licensed by the Austrian Financial Market Authority (Finanzmarktaufsicht).
WUIB is subject to limited regulation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority. Details about the extent of WUIB’s regulation by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority are available from WUIB on request.
This article has been prepared solely for informational purposes and does not in any way create any binding obligations on either party. Relations between you and WUIB shall be governed by the applicable terms and conditions. No representations, warranties or conditions of any kind, express or implied, are made in this brochure.

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