Stay safe on line: Beware fraud and scams during Covid-19 pandemic
There are so many sources of news and information about coronavirus, but which ones should you trust to help you stay safe, protect the NHS and save lives?
Coronavirus fraud and misinformation are barriers to the nation continuing the progress it has made toward coming to terms with, and beating, the virus. We take a look at how you can protect yourself, your friends and your family from being tricked into believing news and information that is not true, or becoming a victim of fraud.
The vast majority of the people across the UK have taken the official advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
People are hungry for accurate information about how to protect themselves, but following the official advice and ignoring the swirling mass of uninformed conjecture, opinion and speculation is not always easy.
However, there are ways to identify who to trust, and who to ignore.
Similarly, there are ways to identify the small but persistent group of unscrupulous individuals who have decided that they want to use the pandemic to try to make financial gain through fraud.
There have been a lot of examples of false information and attempts at fraud.
For example, holding your breath for 10 seconds is not a test for coronavirus, gargling water for 15 seconds is not a cure and phone masts cannot cause coronavirus.
There have also been comments and suggestions from people claiming to be medical experts who are simply not.
Fraudsters will use any opportunity - including the current pandemic - to try to trick people out of their money.
There have been examples of fake texts claiming to be sent from the Government alerting people they have received a fine for breaking social distancing rules. Some people and even businesses have been tricked into paying for protective face masks and hand sanitizers from companies that don’t exist
There have also been messages from criminals sending messages to trick people into thinking they are getting genuine offers of financial support from the government.
At the same time hackers are stepping up attempts to access people’s networks and steal their log in details and passwords.
However, if you take sensible precautions, you can quickly spot signs of fraud and identify the facts from the fiction.
Sharing the right information could save lives.
How you can spot false information
When it is shared, false information can take on a life of its own and have some serious consequences.
It can lead to health scares, false accusations and potentially damaging hoax stories. Recently there has been a lot of this kind of false information about coronavirus.
It’s not always easy to spot, so use this checklist to cut through the chatter.
SOURCE: Rely on official sources for medical and safety information. Check the facts about coronavirus on official websites.
HEADLINE: Headlines don’t always tell the full story. Always read to the end before you share articles about coronavirus.
ANALYSE: Analyse the facts. If something sounds unbelievable, it very well might be. Independent fact-checking services are correcting false information about coronavirus every day.
RETOUCHED: Watch out for misleading pictures and videos in stories about coronavirus. They might be edited, or show an unrelated place or event.
ERRORS: Look out for mistakes. Errors might mean the information is false. Official guidance about coronavirus will have been carefully checked.
You can visit the following websites for verified, trusted sources of information that will help you stay safe.
Visit the NHS website at www.nhs.uk/
For other information regarding the coronavirus restrictions on travel and much more, visit the Government website at www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Journalists are trained to ask right questions
Regional news sites such as this one employ fully qualified journalists who are trained to ask the right questions and share accurate information in a simple and understandable way.
They are at the forefront of providing trusted news and helping you stay safe.
The best source of trusted local news from, and about, your community is through this websiteand its newspaper.
You can find all the local coronavirus news, updates and information on the website and via our social media channels.
Checklist to help fight cyber fraud
The Government has a checklist to help people protect themselves from cyber fraud:
Take a breath - a moment - before you part with money or personal information. It sounds simple, but this alone could end up preventing fraud from taking place.
Ensure you are using the latest software, apps and operating systems on your phones, tablets and laptops and update them regularly.
And if you get an unexpected or suspicious email or text message, don’t click on the attachment or message.
Don’t be afraid to challenge messages and messengers. It’s okay to refuse or ignore requests for your money or details if you are suspicious - only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
The police and banks will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account. Neither will they ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN.
You can check that requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly. And if you think you have fallen victim to a scam, then contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud.
You can report suspicious texts by forwarding the original message to 7726, which spells SPAM on your keypad.
Share with caution
Be careful what you share, because things are not always what they seem online. Protect yourself and your family from misinformation and fraud by taking care when online, and use the website sharechecklist.gov.uk