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Scammers pretend to offer NHS Covid jabs to try and steal bank details

Brits are being warned about a ‘realistic-looking’ scam telling people they need to pay for their Covid vaccine.

Boris Johnson said the cabinet office is working to ‘beat fraudsters’ exploiting the immunisation programme by sending out bogus emails and text messages purporting to be from the NHS.  

Labour MP Julie Elliott, who represents Sunderland Central, raised the issue in the Commons on Wednesday.

She said: ‘This week I was made aware of an online scam asking people to put their financial information into a fake, a very plausible fake, NHS website in order to get the vaccine. What is the Prime Minister doing to tackle this criminal activity?’

Boris Johnson replied: ‘I can tell her that we are working across Government to beat these fraudsters, to root them out, led by the Cabinet Office and if she would be kind enough to send me details of the case that she mentions we will feed it into our system immediately.’

An NHS warning about the scam was posted on Twitter on Monday, saying: ‘The Covid-19 vaccine is free of charge on the NHS.

‘We will never ask for: your bank account or card details, your pin or banking password, copies of personal documents to prove your identity such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.’

Police say people around the country have been contacted by the scammers in recent weeks.

The recipient is asked to click on a link in the email to arrange an appointment, which takes them through to a webpage that asks them for personal and banking details.

It is unclear if anyone contacted has suffered financial losses.

Events manager Juliana Benetton described feeling ‘excited’ after receiving the fake email, which ‘looked unbelievably real’.

‘I thought this is amazing, I am going to get the jab,’ she told Mailonline.

‘I did think it was strange because I am Brazilian with an Italian passport so I wondered why I should have been chosen.

‘I thought it must be because my brother’s family in Birmingham had all gone down with Covid a few weeks ago. I thought maybe that could explain it.

‘I even rang my sister in Brazil and she told me I was so lucky. It was only when I clicked through that I realised it must be a scam because they were asking for all my bank details.’

The 45-year-old branded the people behind the scam as ‘disgusting’ and accused them of ‘preying on vulnerable people with health problems and trying to steal their money’.

The email arrived in Juliana’s inbox showing as coming from [email protected] with the sub-heading ‘Book an appointment using the NHS’s e-referral service’.

‘I know that some people will be taken it because it looks identical to something you might get from the NHS’, she said.

Consumer watchdog Which? has also warned people about the scam, tweeting: ‘The Covid-19 vaccine will always be available free of charge.

‘If you receive an email, text message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS and you are asked to pay for the vaccine or provide bank details, this is a scam.’

Cyber-security consultant Daniel Card told BBC News that traffic data showed thousands of people had clicked the link to the fake site but it remained unclear how many had filled in the form.

The National Cyber Security Centre and Action Fraud have asked anyone who receives a scam email or text to report it.

This is not the first time a scam has emerged relating to vaccines.

Earlier this month a man accused of tricking a 92-year-old woman into paying for a fake coronavirus jab appeared in court.

David Chambers, 33, allegedly knocked on the pensioner’s door on December 30 offering her an injection if she paid him. It is said he pressed something onto the woman’s wrist to pretend it was a vaccination and charged her a £160 fee.

The NHS is the only organisation that has access to the vaccine and will never ask for payment.

How to protect yourself from scams

To protect yourself from scams the police recommend you:

  • Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or texts from senders you don’t know.
  • Never give out personal information, financial details or passwords in response to an email, text or phone call without verifying that the person is who they claim to be.
  • Block any numbers that arouse suspicion.
  • Set up spam filters on all of your accounts.
  • Always go to a website directly, by typing out the address yourself, when logging into an account.
  • Keep an eye out for numerous spelling mistakes in messages, these are normally linked to phishing emails and texts.

If you are concerned you or someone you know has fallen for an online scam, you can contact the police at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk.

If you have been a victim of this scam, email [email protected]

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