Since February 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified 21 reports of fraud where coronavirus was mentioned, with victim losses totalling over £800,000.
Of the 21 reports, 10 were made by victims that attempted to purchase protective face masks from fraudulent sellers.
One victim reported losing over £15,000 when they purchased face masks that were never delivered.
City of London Police has also received multiple reports about coronavirus-themed phishing emails attempting to trick people into opening malicious attachments or revealing sensitive personal and financial information.
One common tactic used by fraudsters is to contact potential victims over email purporting to be from research organisation’s affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
They claim to be able to provide the recipient with a list of coronavirus infected people in their area. In order to access this information, the victim needs to click on a link, which leads to a malicious website, or is asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.
A City of London Police statement said: “Reporting numbers are expected to rise as the virus continues to spread across the world.
“Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
“If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase.
“If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.”