Coronavirus: fraudsters target vulnerable with PPE scams

12 May 2020

Victims targeted with offers for coronavirus protective equipment and hygiene products


Fraudsters are increasingly targetting the vulnerable with online scams pretending to sell coronavirus protective equipment and cleaning products.

More than one-third (37%) of people targeted by scams during lockdown say they have seen these types of fraud, according to new research by

The research reveals that around one third of people across the UK say they have seen an increase in suspected scams since the coronavirus crisis began.

A quarter (25%) of people noted a rise in phishing scams. Some 14% noticed an increase in “smishing,” where the fraudster sends a text pretending to be credible authority such as a bank or government body.

Common themes include scammers offering quick access to cash or saying the recipient has been fined by the government.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of people said they had come across insurance scams promising to pay out on false claims.

Meanwhile one-fifth (20%) say they have seen pensions or investment related scams in which fraudsters try to trick them into paying money in return for ‘unlocking’ their pension quickly or to prevent it from being lost.

More than one fifth (21%) of UK adults have had to cancel or replace their credit cards as a result of attempted fraud and in over half (51%) of cases money was stolen, averaging at £846 per person.

John Crossley, head of money at, says“It is more important than ever that people remain cautious online.

"Our research shows that a significant proportion of people have seen an increase in scams during lockdown, as fraudsters seek to take advantage of the current situation.”

How to protect yourself from online scams

Following the tips below can help protect you from online scams.

1) Be vigilant

Be cautious of calls, emails and messages you receive out of the blue. Never respond to unsolicited or unexpected contact, especially if the call tries to pressure you into making a payment or handing over personal or financial information. It is vital not to click the links or attachments of suspicious emails either.

2) Think before you buy

If you are buying from a company or person you do not know and trust, do some research beforehand. A quick search online can help you identify if a seller is legitimate. You could also ask someone close to you for help and advice if you are still unsure.

3) Protect your devices

It is important to install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from new threats.

You can do this by checking the security settings on your phone. It will let you know if your device software is up to date.

4) Report it

If you receive a suspicious message or think you might have fallen for a scam, report it immediately to Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre. They will help investigate the scam and try to recover your money.  

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