Governments across the globe have been struggling to block the ongoing fraud attempts and attacks that have proliferated amid the coronavirus lockdown.
According to official data, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has formally asked UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to remove 292 websites exploiting the coronavirus outbreak since the national lockdown began on March 23.
The information, gathered by legal firm Griffin Law under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that, out of nearly 300 fraudulent webpages, 237 were proactively identified by HMRC, while the remaining 55 were flagged directly by consumers via email@example.com.
The statistics also revealed that HMRC identified 62 active coronavirus-related phishing scams seeking to take advantage of consumers, mainly through text messages or vishing.
“These typically take the form of an automated voice call claiming to represent HMRC and threatening legal action unless payment is made immediately,” HMRC officials said. “The calls spoof a valid HMRC telephone number in the caller ID field and provide a return number for victims to call to make a payment.”
Last month, fraudsters impersonating the HMRC were sending out phishing emails exploiting the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in an attempt to steal personal information from small business owners. The phony email sent via firstname.lastname@example.org included several typos, and business owners were quick to report their findings to local authorities.
The measures are reinforced by the recent launch of the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS) by the National Cyber Security Centre. The platform allows Brits to report any phishing or suspicious emails they receive in their Inboxes — including those related to Covid-19.
On the day of its christening, SERS received more than 5,000 hits of suspicious emails that helped authorities interrupt more than 80 malicious attacks. Part of the Cyber Aware campaign teaching good cyber hygiene, SERS allows security-minded citizens to spot phishing emails and actively participate in blocking cybercrime.
The ongoing crisis has created new opportunities for cybercriminals to profit off our fears and uncertainty by deploying an unprecedented number of cyber attacks, scams and misinformation. Consumers are advised to remain vigilant and continue reporting any suspicious email or fraudulent attempt they might encounter while browsing the Internet.