The public has been asked to stay alert as scam text messages and emails are being circulated over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The messages attempt to scare people into handing over personal information to avoid restrictions.
According to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), there is evidence of messages being sent to the public pretending to be from the NHS, asking people to:
apply now for Omicron PCR test to avoid restrictions.
In their messaging, the scammers claim that because older PCR tests are unable to detect the new variant, people ought to sign up for a new type of test.
They go on to claim that people who fail to apply for the fake new test would be forced to self-isolate. CTSI lead officer Katherine Hart said:
It disgusts me that scammers are jumping on the public’s fears about the Omicron variant in an attempt to steal their personal data. All of the claims in the email are false. The public is especially vulnerable at this time, and I call on everyone to share this message so that we can minimise the impact of this scam
Taking Advantage of the Pandemic
The fraudulent message contains links to a fake NHS website where people can go to fill in a form of personal details. CTSI warns this could be used to access vital personal information such as bank accounts and social security numbers. Hart said:
This is by no means the first time fraudsters have used the pandemic for their gain – since March 2020, the unscrupulous have angled their scams on everything from bogus Covid-19 business support grants and vaccination bookings to fake vaccine passes.
She added that the public should report any such messages to the appropriate authorities, should anyone receive them.
It is also crucial that the public reports this scam to the authorities. By doing so, the public aids consumer protectors in mapping out the problem and recognizing the sheer scale of it.
Anyone who encounters a scam is encouraged to contact Action Fraud via actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040; in Scotland, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 800 9060; or if in Northern Ireland, contact Consumer line on 0300 123 6262.