As the coronavirus pandemic continues, one group that are benefitting are scammers as fraudsters attempt to make money from the imposed lockdown. A new scam sees them using Whatsapp to target innocent people by luring them in with the promise of free groceries.
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Police are warning shoppers to be extra vigilant as the scam does the rounds on messaging and email.
The fake messages aim to steal shoppers’ personal information and bank details in order to take their money.
The scam message reads: “Morrison’s is giving away free groceries worth £250 to support the nation during Corona pandemic. Hurry up! Collect your FREE voucher.”
However, the convincing text is completely fake and uses a fake web address to get shoppers to enter their data.
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A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said: “It’s said to appear genuine and the link to the website provided was: http://morrisons.uk-groceries.store/#.
“As you can see, the URL starts with just ‘HTTP’ which isn’t secure, always check you have HTTPS within your browser for the most secure way of browsing (this ‘S’ stands for secure).”
Users say the link works and looks genuine, but it then prompts shoppers to answer a series of questions and then share it via Whatsapp.
The messages then lead you to another page giving the chance to win an iPhone.
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It’s at this point customers are expected to pay £1 for handling charges, which means entering bank or credit card details to make the payment and enter the competition.
The police have shared the telltale signs to look for that suggest something is a fake or a fraud attempt – such as misspellings, numbers used instead of letters in links and brand names, and even added symbols which wouldn’t be on an official website.
It’s been reported that the link usually comes as a forwarded message.
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Tesco customers are also being targeted in an email scam which promises a free voucher offer.
It reads: “Dear Customer,
“TESCO is giving you a chance to shop for free this COVID-19 season at any of out outlets or online by giving out free vouchers.
“This offer is for All users and it will be on until the end of April 2020.
“To Qualify follow the link below and input all the details required.
“After validation, if selected your voucher will be sent via text message or posted to your Mailbox.
“Thanks for taking part, The Tesc0 team.”
The National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre revealed it had received several reports about the fake email and urged shoppers to be careful.
Cyber Crime Prevent and Protect Officer, Kirsty Jackson, said: “Criminals will use every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people. They will continue to exploit every angle of this national crisis and we want people to be prepared.
“We will be sharing scam advice where possible to try and get one step ahead of these criminals and we want to help the public protect themselves from these scams where possible. However, we will need the help of the public to share this as much as possible, including conversations with those less likely to see our alerts.”
Unfortunately the scams come in a long line of attempts to steal money from people as they deal with the pandemic.
Posting on Twitter last week, Action Fraud UK revealed the high number of victims since the coronavirus hit.
“1,072 victims have lost a combined total of £2,360,727 to coronavirus-related scams,” the team wrote.
The National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre stressed that everyone must protect themselves from the rise in scams, and think before entering any personal details.
The fraudsters are posing so far as Morrisons and Tesco, but police are urging everyone in the UK to be vigilant and double check messages and emails before clicking or entering any details.
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