Cruel Christmas scammers are trying to charge for arranging bogus Covid booster jabs for victims in North Wales, it’s been revealed.
The warning came from Wayne Jones, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales, who has himself been targeted with a fake message with a link to “register” for a third vaccination.
The link takes people to a phoney website that appears to look like a genuine NHS site which asks for their banking details.
Mr Jones stressed that the NHS does not charge for such Covid-related services and texts or emails indicating for you to click should not be opened.
The retired police chief superintendent warned that the unscrupulous scammers were aiming to exploit the festive season, with a vast array of illegal swindles at a time when online spending increases in the run-up to Christmas.
He said: “People are doing lots more online these days, including buying Christmas presents or giving to charity, so everybody needs to be mindful that if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is.
“They need to make sure they have proper software and firewalls on their phones and other devices so they’re not being infected by spyware and illegal software that’s tracking their online activity.
“Any online purchases should be made from reputable suppliers and check out their returns policy and their insurance policy.
“It’s also important to make sure that you’re fully secure in terms of your online banking and that you’re protecting your private information.
“My advice is to make sure your passwords are secure by not using birthdays, family names and the like, and don’t use the same passwords across important accounts.
“There are also a lot of unsolicited emails or text messages, particularly purporting to be in relation to parcels that could not be delivered.
“Sometimes they may be legitimate but there are an awful lot of scam emails and text messages going around. If you receive a message about a delivery, always check the delivery company’s official website where you can track any parcels.
“The purpose of a scam email can often also be to get you to click a link. This will take you to a website which might download a virus to your computer, or steal passwords or other personal information. This is sometimes known as phishing
“I would just like people to be on their guard, particularly during the lead up to Christmas and the post-Christmas sales, as they are spending more money.
“Also be alert for phone calls from fraudsters saying they are calling on behalf of banking services.
“You should always be wary of unsolicited calls, texts or emails requesting your personal or financial information, including your name, address, bank details, email or phone numbers. Always contact your bank/building society directly using a known email or phone number to verify.
“This time of year, the scammers will always be looking for opportunities to make money out of people – particularly asking for charity donations. Scammers have no scruples, no moral compass.
“They will jump on any story they see in the press if they think they can make money out of it because scammers adapt themselves very quickly to changing circumstances. They’re always looking to take your hard-earned cash off you.
“They’re even trying to make money out of Covid and one of their new tricks is pretend to offer an appointment for a booster jab or PCR test.
“I’ve seen it myself where I have seen a link to go to what looks like an NHS website to book your jab. It looks legitimate but it’s not, never click on any links you are sent.
“Another one involves scammers offering to prepare travel documentation in respect of Covid, particularly if you are looking at booking a holiday after Christmas.
“It’s an awful thing to do at any time of year but it’s particularly mean at Christmas. It’s a time when scammers know people will be spending more money than usual on Christmas presents and making donations to charity.
“By all means make your donations to charity but just make sure you know who you’re giving your money to and what you’re giving your money for.
“I’ve seen the impact that being a victim of fraud can have on people and it can be utterly devastating. It can be really damaging for individuals and for businesses.”
It was a message reinforced by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin.
Tackling online crime is a key priority for the tech savvy Commissioner who is also playing a key role nationally.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners have elected him as their deputy lead for police technology and digital and deputy lead for economic and cyber crime, including fraud.
Fellow commissioners decided he was the perfect person for the job because of his background working in the technology industry.
Back in 2012 he helped ensure the London Olympics was successfully beamed across the world to an audience measured in billions.
Mr Dunbobbin said: “We know that during the pandemic cyber crime has gone up by 50 per cent in comparison to previous years.
“Tackling cyber crime was a major commitment in my manifesto and it is a key priority in my Police and Crime Plan which sets out the blueprint for policing North Wales.
“Nobody is immune from scam emails or text messages. I receive them, we all get them. People just need to use a bit of common sense.
“These scammers are totally unscrupulous – they’re using any opportunity that might be particularly pertinent at that particular time.
“To use the pandemic for a money making scam is the lowest of the low because we all know somebody who has had Covid and tragically some have lost their lives.
“Christmas is supposed to be the season of goodwill but these despicable scammers aim to make it a miserable time for their victims.”