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Coronavirus-related fraud

There is increasing evidence of criminals exploiting the coronavirus for their own gain. Techniques being used include sending bogus emails with links claiming to have important updates and, in some cases, fake tax refunds.

alert iconIf you’re worried about money, don’t wait to get help. Call us on 0800 138 1111 (Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 8am-4pm) or use our debt advice tool 24/7.

These ‘phishing’ attempts can lead to loss of money and personal data. Though its sometimes difficult to tell, until you're certain that the sender is genuine, you should not follow any links, open attachments or reply to emails you aren’t expecting. If you have suspicions something isn’t right simply delete the email.

Here are some tips on spotting phishing emails:

  • Many phishing emails have poor grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • The design and overall quality may not be what would you'd expect from the organisation the email is supposed to come from
  • Is it addressed to you by name, or does it refer to 'valued customer', or 'friend', or 'colleague'? This can be a sign that the sender doesn’t actually know you, and that it’s a phishing scam
  • Does the email contain a veiled threat that asks you to act urgently? Be suspicious of words like 'send these details within 24 hours' or 'you have been a victim of crime, click here immediately'
  • Look at the sender's name. Does it sound legitimate, or is it trying to mimic someone you know?
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It's most unlikely that someone will want to give you money, or give you access to a secret part of the internet
  • Your bank, or any other official source, should never ask you to supply any personal information via email

Companies pretending to be StepChange

Some of our clients have told us they’ve been sent messages, or had phone calls, from companies pretending to be us. We call these 'clone firms'.

Scams aren't just restricted to 'phishing' emails nowadays. Dodgy companies may send you texts, instant messages or SMS’s that look like they're coming from a genuine organisation like StepChange.


  • We’ll only contact you in the ways you asked us to when you spoke to us. If you change your mind, you can update your preferences at any time
  • We never use WhatsApp or similar messaging apps to communicate with you. If you see a message claiming to be from us on a messaging app be very wary
  • If you do receive anything suspicious, get in touch with us and we’ll investigate

You can contact us using the information we've listed on our contact page so you know you’re talking with us. We’ll be able to verify if the correspondence is genuine. You can also find more information about clone firms pretending to be StepChange here.

Fake lockdown fine texts

A fake coronavirus warning is currently being circulated by text. The warning claims that your movements have been monitored through your phone, and that you must pay a fine or face prosecution.

If you receive the text, do not click or tap any of the links shown in the message.

What to do and how to report a scam

You can report phishing emails to Action Fraud, who’ll then pass your concerns to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) to investigate. The NFIB are a sub-division of the police and specialise in tackling fraud in the UK.

You should only use this tool to report phishing campaigns if you haven’t exposed your personal details or had any money taken out of your bank account or fraudulent transactions on a credit card.

If money has been taken from your account or there are fraudulent transactions on a credit or debit card, get in touch with your bank or credit card provider to let the fraud team know as soon as possible.

If you live in Scotland, you can find extensive information on coronavirus-related scams on the Trading Standards Scotland website, including what scams are currently active, and what you can do about them. You can also sign up to their Scam Share e-bulletin.

How can I protect myself from being scammed?

StepChange has a dedicated page with additional advice on spotting and avoiding scams and fraud attempts. For additional information please refer to the advice here.