COVID-19 related fraud reports increase by 400% in March

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

On the 20th March 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) reported a new trend in fraud related to COVID-19. 

Updated figures show there have been 105 reports to Action Fraud since 1st February 2020, with total losses reaching nearly £970,000. There were 20 more reports in February related to COVID-19. Since then, there have been 46 reports between the 1st and 13th March, and 38 reports in just four days (14th–18th March).  


The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.

Phishing Emails

There has also been over 200 reports of COVID-19 themed phishing emails. These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, passwords, and banking details. 

Some of the tactics being used in phishing emails include: 

• Fraudsters purporting to be from a research group that mimic the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide the victim with a list of active infections in their area but to access this information the victim needs to either: click on a link which redirects them to a credential-stealing page; or make a donation of support in the form of a payment into a Bitcoin account. 

• Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates. 

• Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.

• Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details. The emails often display the HMRC logo making it look reasonably genuine and convincing.

Superintendent Sanjay Andersen, Head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, says:

“Fraudsters will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people. This includes exploiting tragedies and global emergencies.''

Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, says:

“We are working together across law enforcement, government and the private sector to combat this criminal activity and protect the public. If you think you have been a victim, please report to Action Fraud.”

NFIB: How to Protect Yourself and Your Place of Work:

1) Watch out for scam messages. 

Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.

2) Shopping online

If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for guidance before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

For more information on how to shop online safely, please click here.

3) Protect your devices from the latest threats

Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.

For the latest health information and advice about COVID-19 please visit the NHS website by clicking here.