With the Covid-19 vaccination programme here in the UK ramping up, everyone is now hoping that they’ll soon be called up to receive their vaccination and we can all start to return to a more normal way of life.
However, this hope is being unscrupulously twisted by scam artists and used as cover for their criminal activities – often targeting regular members of the public with the aim of conning them out of personal information or, worse still, their hard-earned cash. Their weapon of choice is the humble email; which, on the face of it, doesn’t sound particularly threatening. But in the wrong hands, emails are proving to be a particularly effective way of scamming unsuspecting people – and this method is on the rise, too.
So, in this blog, we’re going to help prevent you being a victim to a scam Covid-19 vaccination email – and how to tell if you’ve instead received a phishing email.
Don’t take the bait!
The types of emails criminals are using are called ‘Phishing’ emails. Basically, it’s a way for criminals or computer hackers to con you into providing your personal or financial information. Once your info is obtained, hackers can then use your data for their own means; and that can be anything: from applying for credit cards, to buying products online or selling your personal information to other criminals. They can also use this form of scam to infect your own computer with malware and get direct access to things like your online back accounts – meaning they can potentially empty your bank account without encountering any form of resistance.
Clearly, knowing the signs of a scam email is an important step to keeping you, your personal data and finances safe – so here’s the critical things you should look out for…
Who has it come from?
Scam emails will often look like they’ve come from a legitimate source; but scratch the surface and the deception can be obvious.
If you receive an email claiming to be from the NHS offering you a Covid-19 vaccination, check the sender’s email address. Make sure no alterations (like additional numbers or letters) have been made to the address and it comes from an official NHS web domain. If it comes from a generic Hotmail, Google or Live email account, it’s more than likely a fake email – so delete it!
Is it addressed to you in name?
Any official communications – be it from the NHS or a reputable business – will use your actual given name to address you – after all, it’s a direct communication to you! Phishing emails typically use generic salutations; such as “Dear member,” “Dear account holder ” or“ Dear (your email address)”. Or, it may not even have an opening salutation at all!
Are there any spelling errors?
Scammers are not the best writers, and a scam email will often have grammatical or spelling errors which can instantly give away of an email is fake.
You may also notice that the email doesn’t look quite right, either. Emails from the NHS will always be branded in a particular way and look extremely professional. If you receive a bare email with no branding claiming to be from an NHS trust, just follow the two previous steps to check if it is genuine or not.
Are there any attachments?
A common trick of email scammers is to include attachments to their email which look like innocent PDFs or Word documents. However, these attachments can often riddled with computer viruses, allowing hackers access to your own computer and important personal data.
It’s extremely unlikely that the NHS – or any reputable company in fact – will send you unsolicited emails with attachments to download – especially so when it comes to a Covid vaccination. If they need you to complete a form or require any specific information, they’ll normally direct you to download documents or files on their own secure website, or do it in person. Which takes us nicely on to…
Are there any links to other pages?
Another sneaky method that scam emails employ will be to encourage you to click a link that’ll lead you to a particular website. Whilst this is common with legitimate emails, scammers also use this method.
Remember, just because a link says it’s going to send you to one place, it doesn’t mean you’re going to end up there! To check if a link is genuine, hover over the link with your mouose and check the URL address – is it identical to the sender’s email domain? Is it to a secure website with an address starting ‘htpps://’? Or is it to somewhere completely different?
If you’re not sure, just don’t click it.
Are you being asked to provide your banking details?
Finally, our NHS provides its services free to the great British public – and this applies to the Covid vaccine, too. Anyone who wants to receive the Covid-19 vaccination will receive it free of charge on the NHS. So, if you’re asked to provide bank details to secure your vaccination, the email is 100% fake – simple!
A final word from us…
The NHS is working incredibly hard to vaccinate the entire UK population – that’s over 60 million people! This will of course take time, but rest assured – everyone who wants to be vaccinated will receive a Covid-19 vaccination. When it’s your turn to receive a jab, the NHS will contact you directly by letter and invite you for a vaccination. You can read their official vaccine guidance via this link, which also includes helpful information on the booking process.
In the meantime, if you receive an email claiming to be offering a Covid-19 vaccination, remember to follow these important steps and look out for the tell-tale signs of a scam artist!