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Herts police warns residents to beware of coronavirus con artists

Hertfordshire police is warning residents to be cautious after a series of coronavirus scams.

Action Fraud recorded a 400% increase in virus-related cons this month.

One scam claims that people can donate to the efforts of the World Health Organisation or the Centre for Disease Control to combat the virus, by asking people to pay via a bitcoin link. Another trick appears to be from the government website gov.uk, claiming that people are entitled to tax and national insurance refunds. Both of these arrive in email form or as posts on social media, with links to click for more information.

Scammers are using coronavirus to target people (32435093)
Scammers are using coronavirus to target people (32435093)

Reports have also been received in other parts of the UK of text messages being received from gov.uk stating that the recipient has breached regulations and will be sent a fine in the post.

Another fraudulent email claiming to be from Hertfordshire County Council asks parents of children who receive free school meals for their bank details.

Coronavirus-themed phishing emails with infected attachments containing fictitious 'safety measures' have also been targeting people in the UK.

Chief Inspector Sam Khanna, from Hertfordshire Constabulary's Serious Fraud and Cyber-crime Unit, said: "People need to remain vigilant during this period of change and confusion. Many people are sharing posts, advice and forwarding on attachments. We all need to be vigilant and remember not to click on suspicious attachments or links. Phishing scams aim to trick you into revealing your personal data or lure you to a fake website that looks like your bank or other online accounts. Sometimes these emails or posts can be very convincing. Never click on links in emails or download attachments unless you are 100 per cent sure they are legitimate.

"It's also really important to make sure you keep security software up to date, always install the latest updates on your computers and mobile devices to protect yourself from the latest threats."

Here's what to look out for:

· Getting an email or text out of the blue asking you for your personal or financial info - don't take the bait!

· Messages asking to "confirm" or "verify" your personal or financial details are a common lure used by criminals. Don't get hooked.

· Phishing reports to @Actionfrauduk show that telecoms companies, tech brands and government departments are the most commonly spoofed sectors.

· Don't respond to messages or calls that ask for your personal or financial info.

· Create strong passwords using three random words. For example such as a fruit, a colour, and make of car i.e. Yellowappleford1! Use passwords with over 15 characters, using upper and lower case, numbers and symbols.

· Use a different password for every login and use either a password manager or if you don't want to/can't do that write them down if you can't remember them. If you do write them down don't leave your password list in plain sight.

· Use two-factor authentication wherever this is an option, which requires two different methods to prove your identity before you can access a service. This is usually a password and another method, such as a code sent to your mobile phone.

If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk. Alternatively, contact herts.police.uk/report, speak to an operator in the force communications room via online webchat at herts.police.uk/contact or call non-emergency number 101. If a crime is in progress or someone's life is in danger, call 999 immediately.

For more simple tips on how to protect yourself online, visit cyberaware.gov.uk.

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