New scams taking advantage of the current lockdown are popping up daily. According to Richmond Council leaders, fraudsters have a new trick up their sleeve – “fines” for not respecting social distancing measures.
Following the UK’s government’s announcement informing citizens to stay at home to reduce the spread of Covid-19, three new measures were introduced:
• Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes.
• Closing certain businesses and venues.
• Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.
On top of these preventive actions, the announcement states that, “relevant authorities, including the police, have been given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”
Against the backdrop of recently adopted social distancing measures, it seems that citizens have received a fraudulent text message mimicking an official government notice. The text notified recipients that they have been seen leaving their homes and must now pay a £35 fine that has been added to their gov.uk account.
“GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT. We would like to inform you that you have been recorded as leaving your home on 3 occasions yesterday. A fine of £35 has been added to your gov.uk account. For further information please visit gov[.]uk/coronavirus-penalty-payment-tracking. Protect the NHS. Save Lives,” the message reads.
Government officials state that anyone who visits the website, and provides payment details, is actually revealing the keys to their bank account and is at risk of additional fraudulent charges to their accounts.
“My message is simple – if you are sent a message from any official organization asking for money or any personal information – it is almost certain to be a fake. Do not click on any links,” said Cllr Gareth Roberts, the leader of Richmond Council.
He later added that, “anyone who receives this text should ignore it. It is simply another ruse to steal the payment details of users.”
Any UK citizen that receives this type of message via phone call, SMS or even social media messages, should immediately report the fraudulent attempt to the authorities, providing any relevant information.
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