Public warned over Covid-19 cons amid rising vaccine fraud reports

Action Fraud says the number of reports is relatively low but has been rising in the last two months, particularly around scam text messages.

Person using a laptop
Person using a laptop

The public are being warned by doctors and police not to fall for fraudsters trying to sell fake coronavirus vaccines, affirming that the jab will always be free.

Reports to Action Fraud have been rising in the last two months, particularly around scam text messages, as con artists seek to gain from the pandemic.

City of London Police are investigating one case in which a man knocked on the door of a 92-year-old woman and administered a fake vaccine before charging £160 and claiming it would be reimbursed by the NHS.

Suspicious text messages reported by members of the public urge people to click a link to a bogus booking site which mimics an NHS page, asking for personal details such as bank account numbers.

Con artists have also been known to use telephone calls to extract payments.

“Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“It is vital that we do not let a small number of unscrupulous fraudsters undermine the huge team effort under way across the country to protect millions of people from this terrible disease.”

It comes as the latest figures showed that 3.23 million people across the UK have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

England’s top GP joined the head of Action Fraud, the National Crime Agency and the National Cyber Security Centre in issuing advice to combat vaccine scams.

A number of people are already serving prison sentences for Covid-19 related cons over the last year, NHS England said.

“Over a thousand NHS teams across the country are working hard to deliver vaccines quickly to those who would benefit most and are doing an amazing job, with over two million people already getting their first dose,” said GP Nikki Kanani, the medical director for primary care for NHS England.

“We know how excited people are to get the vaccine when it’s their turn to do so, but sadly we’re seeing that excitement is also bringing out the cheats, crooks and con people looking to make money from this life-saving programme.

“Remember, the vaccine will always be free on the NHS. Our staff will never ask for, or accept, cash for vaccines, never ask for your banking details or identity documents, and will never come around to your house unannounced.”

As of January 10, Action Fraud had received 65 reports in relation to coronavirus vaccines.

During the vaccine rollout, the NHS says it will never ask for bank account or card details, a banking PIN or password, and never ask individuals to prove their identity by sending copies of personal documents such as a passport, driving licence, bills or payslips.

“Thankfully, the number of reports into Action Fraud are relatively low but we have seen an increase in the last two months, particularly around scam text messages,” said Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud.

“Anyone asking for payment for the vaccine is committing fraud.

“If you have received a text message, email or phone call where someone has tried to charge you for the vaccine please report this to Action Fraud, even if you haven’t given them any money.

“Your report can help us protect others.”

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