Exploiting hope: Warning over criminal coronavirus vaccine scams

Scam text message

One of the fake text messages which scammers are sending out. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Criminals are exploiting people's hopes around a coronavirus vaccine to try to con them out of money or personal details, watchdogs have warned.

Coinciding with the start of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, there has been a spate of reports in Norfolk of scammers trying to trick people through telephone calls, emails and text messages.

And officers at Norfolk Trading Standards have urged people not to be taken in by the scams - and to help spread the message about them.

The latest warning is over a fake text message purporting to be from the NHS offering the Covid-19 vaccine.

The link on the message takes people to a fake website, where the scammers ask for personal and financial details.

Stephen Maunder, community protection officer at Norfolk County Council Trading Standards.Picture: J

Stephen Maunder, from Norfolk County Council Trading Standards. - Credit: James Bass

Stephen Maunder, from Norfolk County Council's Trading Standards department, said: "Criminals will always, very quickly, latch on to the big story and coronavirus is the biggest story we have had for a long time.

"They will always use what's going on to give their attempts to trick people some legitimacy.

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"They know that people have hope over the coronavirus vaccine and the majority of the population are waiting to get it, so they want to exploit that.

"And they hope that will lead to people letting their guard down."

Healthcare cure concept with a hand in blue medical gloves holding Coronavirus, Covid 19 virus, vaccine

Criminals are trying to trick people with fake vaccination emails, texts and calls. - Credit: Adobe Stock

Mr Maunder said, as well as the texts, people have been sent emails and had telephone calls about vaccines.

Mr Maunder said cold callers are even spoofing local numbers to try to trick people and make their efforts more plausible.

He said: "They are trying to get personal details and financial information.

"Some of them are saying that they need bank details so they can arrange the vaccination and recharge it to the NHS or to prove somebody's identity.

"The NHS would never do that and the vaccination is free at the point of entry."

People are urged to look very carefully at email addresses and for spelling mistakes which are often tell tale signs of scams.

Mr Maunder also urged people to talk to other people about the scams, to help spread awareness of them.

Scam texts can be forwarded to 7726, while scam phone calls and emails can also be reported via 0808 223 1133.