Criminals are exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to scam the unwary. Discover the warning signs of fraud and seven tips to protect yourself.

Coronavirus-related scams can take many forms. They usually attempt to impersonate a person or organisation you may know and trust.

Many trick people into purchasing products and services relating to COVID-19, such as protective face masks, hand sanitiser or testing kits, that are never delivered. Another scam is a fake email soliciting donations to buy medical supplies for the NHS.

Some seek to capitalise on the temporary closure of bank branches by deceiving people into switching to online banking.

Criminals have also seized on the sudden shift to home working, to target malicious attacks on remote access and collaboration tools, such as audio and video conferencing services. So it's very important to keep updated your operating software and apps running on home computers and other devices.


Phishing emails and other hoax electronic communications aim to steal confidential information and assets, such as usernames, passwords, bank details (and money), from you or your organisation.

These communications are disguised to look as if they are from a trusted person or body. Criminals can dupe you to expose personal or financial information, by clicking on a harmful link or opening a malicious attachment. Doing so could infect your device or systems with a computer virus. This could expose your security and banking details, leading to loss of data or money, or preventing access to your device and network, unless you pay a ransom.

Examples of coronavirus-themed phishing scams are:

  • Emails from criminals posing as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , which provide fake information or claim to be raising donations for medical research
  • Emails impersonating HMRC and other government agencies, that say you are entitled to a tax refund
  • Bogus requests from senior people or organisations, for an urgent payment to be made. These deceive people to transfer money from their personal or organisation's bank account to the scammer's account


Purchase scam

This is where a victim pays in advance, on a website, social media network or other online platform, for goods or services that are not received. The criminal seller persuades the purchaser to pay by bank transfer, rather than by a secure payment method. After the payment is transferred, the seller disappears and the order never arrives.

Trust your instincts; if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. Always use secure payment options offered by reputable online retailers.

Charity donation fraud

When fake charity collectors or fundraisers prey on your goodwill by asking you to make a donation to a charitable cause. They may falsely claim to represent a genuine charity or that their cause was recently set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or another topical event.

Never make a donation before checking that a cause is genuine and the fundraiser is authorised to collect money for that charity. You can check registered charities' details on the Charity Commission and OSCR websites, or by using our charity search.

Bank transfer fraud

Also known as an Authorised Push Payment (APP) scam. The victim receives a payment request that appears to be genuine. The criminal who made the request, impersonating a supplier or someone in authority, changes the payee's details to divert the transferred funds to his or her bank account.

Always contact the payee through your existing, official communication channels, to verify changes of bank account details; or make a small initial payment before transferring the balance.


A scam message from an unknown source, disguised to be from a trusted person or organisation. Spoofing manipulates the phone number, displayed sender's details or a website address to impersonate someone or an organisation you might recognise.

Be suspicious of messages encouraging you to click on links or open attachments, even from people or organisations you know. Look out for the tell tale signs of a scam message


Pressure tactics

You receive an unexpected communication asking you to take urgent action, to avoid an adverse outcome or secure a financial benefit.

The message

You are asked to disclose confidential details, the message is not addressed to you by name, it contains errors, suspicious-looking links or attachments.

The source

You do not recognise the messenger or their contact details. A request from a known contact is unusual or out-of-character.

Bank account

Your bank alerts you of a new payee or change of payee details that you do not recognise. Unauthorised withdrawals or payments appear on your statement.


1. Keep software and apps updated

Protect your computer and devices, by keeping operating software, anti-virus software and apps updated. When installing new apps it’s much safer to use the official app stores. Check your firewall is switched on to block unauthorised access.

2. Set strong passwords

Use strong passwords that are difficult to guess. Do not use the same password for different websites or services. Change your passwords regularly.

3. Safeguard your personal and financial details

Do not disclose your personal or financial details, or share passwords or other security credentials.

4. Ignore unsolicited communications

Do not respond to unsolicited telephone calls or messages. If we call you, please feel free to call us back on our published numbers

5. Be suspicious of links and attachments

Do not click on links or attachments until you have validated the source of an email or text message.

6. Verify payment requests

Never comply with requests to transfer money, unless you know and trust the person, have checked the payment details are correct and validated the source of the request using known contact details.

7. If you feel pressured, end the call or delete the message

Remember, neither your bank nor the police will ever ask you to move your money to a safe account, or to divulge your PIN number or full password. 


CAF Bank Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register number: 204451).

CAF Bank Limited Registered office is 25 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent ME19 4JQ. Registered in England and Wales under number 1837656.