As the UK enters its third lockdown, many businesses are rightly concerned about their futures.
Although Rishi Sunak has outlined a £4.6 billion package to help businesses, there are still scammers attempting to take advantage of the situation.
The Chanceller has announced one-off top up grants of up to £9,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure venues.
But scam texts have started circulating that aim to dupe people confused over the guidance. It asks people to hand over their card details in order to claim a non-existent grant of £240.
The message claims to be from HMRC but contains a number of grammatical and spelling errors.
One such message reads: ‘From HMRC: The third lockdown has been announced, we have been issued a grant off £240 to help during this period, visit to claim:’ and then provides a link to an official-looking website where people can enter their financial information.
HMRC itself warns that the site is an illegal one and visitors should not be tricked into giving over their details.
Both the Google Chrome and Apple Safari web browsers should automatically flag the site as suspicious to users.
The National Cyber Security Centre advises: ‘Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to 7726. This free-of-charge short code enables your provider to investigate the origin of the text and take action, if found to be malicious.’
‘Everyone should be wary of any unsolicited emails, texts or calls offering insurance, pension or investment products. Make sure your personal devices are supported by the latest security updates and antivirus software to minimise threats.’
Charles Counsell, the Pensions Regulator’s chief executive, said: ‘Pensions make a tempting target for fraudsters, with victims losing £82,000 on average, and if you’re ever contacted out of the blue with a pensions offer, it’s probably a scam.
‘Never be rushed into an irreversible decision about your money that you may live to regret later. Always check who you’re dealing with and get to know the signs of a pension scam by visiting the ScamSmart website.’
The Local Government Association (LGA) said some councils have recorded a 40% increase in reported scams since the start of the Covid-19 emergency, with officers continuing to seize illegal and shoddy products.
An LGA spokesman said: ‘People need to be cautious. If something doesn’t seem right or sounds too good to be true, don’t hesitate to end a phone call, bin a letter, delete an email or shut the door.’
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