AGE members warn against online fraud during COVID-19
“No, the Public Health Authority does not call about Corona spread and asks you to use bank ID / bank box. Pay attention and spread this!” was alerting SPF Seniorerna on their Facebook page last 18 March.
Taking advantage of the self-isolation of many older adults in Sweden, scammers seem to have developed new strategies to collect bank account details. The Swedish press reports that an older woman was stolen SEK 140.000 (about EUR 13.000) by an imposter pretending to be a doctor from the Public Health Authority. The fraudster was given secret codes over the phone to take control of her bank account.
Similar attempts of fraud using the name of public administrations were reported in the UK too. On 25 March, AGE member Civil Service Pensions’ Alliance warned:
“The Department for Education has been informed some parents have received an email stating: ‘As schools will be closing, if you're entitled to free school meals, please send your bank details and we'll make sure you're supported’. This is a scam email - do not respond, and delete immediately.”
Fake tests and shams
Researchers have found that the volume of coronavirus email scams related to COVID-19 increased sharply around late March, some of those emails impersonating the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
Several organisations in the UK have informed that criminals would use all possible means (telephone, text messages, email, post, or know at the door), sometimes offering ‘home testing’ or selling fraudulent virus-related items.
Don't panic, organise: a few tips to avoid scammers
The older persons' association SPF Seniorerna cooperates with the police through the project ”Don’t try to fool me!”. Their recent statistics show that fraud crimes have declined in Sweden. At your level, you can act too:
- In the event of an unexpected phone call or email using the identity of a public administration, do not respond. Do not click on links or attachments in suspicious emails.
- Never share your personal financial information with anyone else, especially not unknown third parties. Even your bank would never ask for your personal information.
- If you suspect you are subject to scamming, contact your bank and the police.
The European Commission and national consumer authorities are also on high alert to stop scams. On 23 March 2020, Commissioner for Justice and Consumers Didier Reynders, wrote a letter to several online platforms – including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and eBay – asking them to “keep the environment safe and their users free from the risks posed by illegal commercial practices which may harm EU consumers in a moment where they are most vulnerable”.
For more advice about consumer protection during COVID-19, see the collection of recommendations by consumer groups in each European country
For more information about COVID-19 and older persons, visit our dedicated page