Ben Burrell-Squires, Content writer   15 April 2020

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The coronavirus outbreak might be the most significant global event of our lifetime. People around the world are fearing for their safety and the lives of their loved ones.

For migrants, it is even harder. Not being able to hold or comfort your family at this tragic time is heartbreaking. If you have been forced out of work too then you are probably feeling helpless and looking for any way to continue supporting loved ones overseas whilst protecting them and yourself from Covid-19.

If this is you, our thoughts are with you. Unfortunately, being in this position makes you a primary target for cyber thieves and other scam artists. That’s why we have put together this guide to help you avoid coronavirus scams and stay safe online as well as offline during the pandemic.

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The rise in Covid-19 scams

Law enforcement agencies around the world have reported a rise in the number of phishing emails and scams about Covid-19. Police in the UK have identified 2,000 coronavirus phishing scams and criminals have already stolen over £1.6m from vulnerable people. In the United States, the FBI has warned about a “significant spike” in coronavirus scams.

These scams include fake coronavirus information to trick people into giving up personal information, requests for bogus donations and people trying to sell phoney products that they say can treat or cure Covid-19.

Coronavirus scams to watch out for

Knowing what to watch out for will help you stay safe online, so here we have highlighted the 5 most common Covid-19 scams around right now.

Scammers pretending to be from the World Health Organization

Recently the World Health Organization issued a warning that scammers were impersonating their staff to try and steal sensitive information from people.

Criminals do this by sending messages that look like they are from the WHO, other centres for disease control and even government websites. Then they ask people to click on malicious links or download attachments containing malware.

To be safe, don’t click on links or download attachments if you’re asked to do so in any emails, texts or pop-ups. And certainly never share personal information with anyone online!

Loan, grant and tax relief offers

Fraudsters are using sophisticated phishing scams to try and steal financial information by offering fake loans, grants or tax relief to vulnerable people. This includes struggling business owners, the elderly and migrants who are stranded far away from their families.

Remember – if you have not applied for any financial relief as a result of coronavirus disease then any contact you get about grants or loans is almost certainly a scam.

Fake refunds for holidays or other products and services

Hundreds of bogus websites have sprung up offering fake refunds for holidays or flights that have been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you have family overseas, there’s a good chance you will be affected by this. If you are contacted by anyone offering a refund for a flight or holiday, don’t reply, click links or download anything. Instead, contact the company you originally booked with to double-check whether it’s a genuine offer or not.

Donation scams

This might be the most awful of all the scams relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. Criminals are contacting people to ask for donations to help fight the disease, and then keeping the money for themselves.

Not only are they exploiting the kindness of others, but they are stealing money from where it is needed and risking people’s lives!

If you want to donate, please don’t reply to an email or text asking for money. Instead, go online, look up a reputable charity and donate to them directly.

Counterfeit goods scams

There are dozens of products being offered for sale by fraudsters online. These range from test kits that promise to allow you to do a home test for Covid-19, books or downloads containing false information about coronavirus and supposed treatments that don’t actually do anything.

Our advice is to get any information about disease control and prevention from a trusted source such as medical officials, government or attorney general’s offices.

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What to do if you think you’re being scammed

The best course of action depends on how far the scam has gone before you realise what’s happening.

If you think you have sent money to a scammer

  • Contact your bank or card issuer to see if you can reverse the transaction
  • Report the incident to law enforcement

If you think your smartphone or computer has been accessed

  • Reset all your passwords
  • Contact your bank to let them know your financial details may have been stolen
  • Invest in some good anti-virus software
  • Have your device professionally checked

If you think your account details or PIN have been stolen

  • Contact your bank immediately to freeze your accounts
  • Keep an eye on your statements for any suspicious transactions
  • Check your credit score to see if the scammers are applying for loans in your name
  • Ask your bank to cancel and reissue your debit and credit cards

If you simply suspect a scam

  • Do not respond to the message, click on any links or download any files
  • Report the incident to law enforcement


How to safely send money to your loved ones during quarantine

At WorldRemit our focus has always been to enable people like you to stay connected to your loved ones around the world.

Now, more than ever, we are working to make sure that our customers can give and receive financial support anywhere in the world by offering instant, low-cost transfers between hundreds of countries.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact everyday life, we are constantly updating our Covid-19 information page with details of how cash pickup is being affected by quarantines and other useful information.

Please, as much as possible, we encourage all of our customers to use our ultra-secure and super-fast digital money transfer options like bank account deposits, mobile money, WorldRemit Wallet and airtime top up. You can use any of these via the website, or with our smartphone app.

Our support teams are still available 24/7 to answer any questions you might have.

From all of us at WorldRemit we hope you and your loved ones stay home, stay safe and stay connected.

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