St Helens Chamber has warned businesses be aware of a HMRC phishing scam circulating in the area.
Across the country, there have been reports of criminals using coronavirus as a front to scam the elderly and vulnerable, many of whom are self-isolating.
One scam that has been doing the rounds is a phishing campaign telling customers they can claim a tax refund to help protect them from the coronavirus outbreak.
St Helens Chamber has been made aware of businesses in the borough that have received the email, which has been issued in various formats.
Tracy Mawson, deputy chief executive at St Helens Chamber, said: “St Helens Chamber has been alerted to scam emails appearing to be from HMRC circulating to businesses in the area.
“We would urge local businesses to use caution when interacting with any unfamiliar emails and if they need any assistance to please contact HMRC directly to verify the legitimacy of the message.”
HMRC is aware of the phishing scam and is also aware of a COVID-19 SMS con telling customers they can claim a payment.
There is also automated phone call scam which will tell you HMRC is filing a lawsuit against you, and to press one to speak to a caseworker to make a payment.
HMRC said if you receive a call like this, you should end the call immediately.
“This scam has been widely reported and often targets elderly and vulnerable people,” a HMRC spokesman said.
“Other scam calls may offer a tax refund and request you to provide your bank or credit card information.
“If you cannot verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you do not speak to them.
“If you’ve been a victim of the scam and suffered financial loss, report it to Action Fraud.”
HMRC is also aware of scams taking place through social media and WhatsApp.
In light of the rise in coronavirus scams, Merseyside Police has issued advice to help prepare residents against fraudsters over the coming months.
Local Policing Chief Superintendent, Matt Boyle said: “Although this is a time when the majority of people are pulling together and taking care of the elderly and vulnerable, incidents have been reported which involve criminals exploiting coronavirus for financial gain.
“Incidents such as phishing scams, bogus callers or doorstep scams have been reported, and I would encourage anyone with elderly or vulnerable family members, friends or neighbours, to advise them to remain vigilant share the below tips with them.
“We take all reports of fraud extremely seriously and we never want it to get to the stage where someone has fallen victim to scammers, so being alert and following safety advice is important for all.”
Merseyside Police has asked members of the public to share the below advice with loved ones to prevent scammers over the upcoming weeks and months.
- Remember to close and lock the back door before answering the front door
- Always ask to see the identification of the person calling
- If you are in any doubt about the identification shown, phone the company they claim to represent and check – don’t use the phone number they give you, look in the phone book for it
- Don’t accept help from anyone charging for their services
- Don’t give your bank card or pin number out
- Ask the person to wait outside while you check and never leave your front door open while you do so
- If the caller claims to be from the police he/she should have a warrant card and this can be checked by calling Merseyside Police on 101
- If the caller leaves and you are still unsure about their credibility, write down the details of the person and the registration number and type and colour of vehicle if you know it and contact us on 101
- Don’t click on links or attachments in suspicious emails
- Do not respond to unsolicited messages asking for personal/financial information
If you suspect someone may be trying to scam you, report it to the police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency.
Further fraud crime prevention advice can be found via merseyside.police.uk/ or actionfraud.police.uk