Stay Safe, Stay Better InformedMay 22, 2020
Get it wrong and you could be doing yourself and others harm.
Common – untrue – claims include being able to stop yourself from getting the virus by gargling with water for 15 seconds, or that you can tell you don’t have Covid-19 if you can hold your breath comfortably for ten seconds.
This type of misinformation – often spread innocently among friends – is sometimes given extra authenticity by appearing to come from a medic when it doesn’t.
THEY WANTED TO KNOW MY PIN CODE
Steve Fletcher, 56, is a freelance designer who lives in central London. He says:
About ten days ago, I received a text message saying the HMRC had calculated I was owed a tax refund of about £230 which had been calculated to help people who were working during lockdown.
I was a bit suspicious because I normally get a rebate in the November, but thought perhaps they were trying to help us out. I’d never had a text from HMRC about a rebate before, but I’d received texts from them about other things, so I clicked on the link.
It asked me to confirm my email address and age, then took me to another page where it said to refund my money they needed my bank details. One of the boxes was to enter your pin code. That made me think – it was weird, they wanted way too much information.
I realised it was a hoax and didn’t go any further, but I was worried I’d given away too much information or that I’d left myself open to malware.
So even though I hadn’t given my bank details, I watched my account closely for a few days just in case. Thankfully, nothing happened.
CRIMINALS RUSH IN…
Whatever you read on social media, things like lemon juice, vitamin C and tonic water cannot ward off or cure coronavirus. There are currently no drugs known to treat the virus effectively and the best way to not get Covid-19 is to practise social distancing and regular hand washing.
Criminals are also seeking to use coronavirus for their own illicit ends. Fraudsters have been advertising hand sanitiser, face masks and other PPE for sale online, then pocketing the money and disappearing.
Many people have received texts purporting to be from the Government when they are really from conmen. Common scams often involve an offer of financial help. Once the person clicks on the link provided, and enters their bank details, the hackers can steal their log-in details and passwords and help themselves to their money.
But it IS possible to protect yourself.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘The need for trusted information about coronavirus is vital and the UK media is performing a key role in getting this to people quickly.
‘Misleading claims about the virus online, whether maliciously intended or not, could cost lives and we are working around the clock with tech firms to tackle these.
‘We can all do our bit too by being sceptical about what we read online, so I urge people to follow these steps to ensure they’re not inadvertently spreading dangerous falsehoods.’
WHAT YOU CAN DO
When reading stories online, follow the SHARE guidelines below to see if they’re from trusted sources, such as the NHS or Government.
If you get a text or email either demanding or offering you money, don’t just quickly do as they say; instead take a moment to really think about what you’ve just received and whether it’s genuine or not.
5G mobile masts do not spread coronavirus. Claims Covid-19 is caused by their frequencies or that their signals damage the human immune system have led to masts being vandalised. But this virus is spread through respiratory droplets not via mobile phone masts – even countries without 5G have coronavirus cases.
Don’t be afraid to challenge such requests, or refuse or ignore suspicious or unexpected demands for money – only criminals will try to panic you into paying. Remember, the police and banks will never ask you to transfer money to a different account, or reveal your full password or PIN.
And if you’re suspicious, don’t click on any link or attachment as that may let malware into your system. And make sure you’re using the latest software, apps and operating systems on all your tech.
Finally, you can check requests are genuine by using a known number or email to contact organisations directly – not ones given in the email or text.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FALSE INFORMATION
Just because a story appears online, doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact up to ten new false stories do the rounds every day.
Received a text from the police or Government saying they know you broke social distancing rules and are therefore being fined? Be careful – don’t click on the link or pay the fine. It’s a very common scam from a fraudster looking to empty your bank account.
So how CAN you protect yourself and others from being fooled by false information?
Follow this handy ‘SHARE’ checklist to make sure what you’re reading is legitimate:
S – SOURCE
Only rely on trusted and official sources for medical and safety information such as the NHS website (nhs.uk/coronavirus) or the Government’s (gov.uk/coronavirus).
H – HEADLINE
Headlines don’t always tell the full story and can be misleading so make sure you read to the end before sharing anything.
A – ANALYSE
If the facts you’ve just read sound unbelievable, they might well be. Double check with a trusted source.
R – RETOUCHED
Pictures are powerful but can be misleading – they might be edited, changed or show an unrelated place or event. Check to see who else is using the photo.
E – ERROR
Look out for mistakes because typos and other errors might mean the information is false as official guidance will always have been carefully checked.