FRAUDSTERS are using the coronavirus outbreak to con people into parting with their cash, Action Fraud has confirmed.
Emails pretending to be from HMRC and the website "GOV.UK" are being sent claiming to help those suffering financially.
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Between Saturday April 11 and Tuesday April 14 the fraud reporting agency, Action Fraud, received reports that 23 fake emails had been sent pretending to be from HMRC.
Within the text of the email, it states that refunds of up to £775.80 are eligible and in order to access the money the recipient needs to send proof of their identity and address.
Items asked for include copies of their passport or a recent utility bill.
Action Fraud said a further 131 reports were received of a fake email purporting to be from the government between Wednesday April 8 and Thursday April 16, in the style of the official "GOV.UK" emails.
These emails claimed to tell the recipient they could get a reduction in their council tax payments.
Within the emails a link was included which supposedly could be followed through to a page where the refund would be made via a bank account transfer.
Commander Karen Baxter, the national lead for fraud for the City of London Police, said: “Sadly, despicable criminals will look to take advantage of the financial benefits provided by the government to help us through this national crisis, and use these schemes as a way to commit fraud.
“It is not right that criminals are targeting those on lower incomes, who may be struggling financially at this time, and pretending to offer help and assistance."
If you receive an email or text which you aren't expecting you should not click on any links or attachments in it.
Instead you should visit the official GOV.UK website by typing it directly into your web browser so you can be sure the information given is genuine.
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, you can report it to Action Fraud at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
For those living in Scotland you can report a fraud directly to Police Scotland by calling 101.
The agency says is has received a number of reports of similar emails and texts being sent which look like they are sent from the government but are in fact scams.
These have been for a range of things including universal credit, fines for leaving the house during lockdown, and one-off payments of "COVID relief".
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Last week the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit executed a warrant at a Leicester address where a number of phones and SIM cards were seized as part of an investigation into fake HMRC text messages.
Detective Chief Inspector, Gary Robinson, said: “Working closely with the banks and mobile phone companies, we are successfully cracking down on the criminals using the COVID-19 outbreak to defraud vulnerable members of the public.
“This sends a clear message to those callously seeking to exploit this national crisis to commit fraud: we will track you down and bring you to justice.”
Panic buying at the supermarket has seen prices rise by up to 10 per cent.
Banks have been urged to speed up how they process loans to small businesses.
While millions could be leaving it too late to apply for a payment holiday.
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