Email hackers are exploiting financial hardship and fears caused by coronavirus, according to the Chartered Trading Institute (CTSI).
The watchdog warned members of the public to watch out for scam emails sent by people posing as the government, as well as fake smartphone apps - both of which are designed to prey on coronavirus fears.
How do the emails work?
The emails try to dupe recipients by mimicking official HMRC notices, telling people how much they can claim back in tax. The messages then urge the reader to click on a link in the email to receive the rebate.
When the link is clicked, the reader is taken to a website that asks for personal details, including sensitive banking information.
Having secured a victim’s personal information, the scammers can then take money directly from their bank accounts.
‘Be extra vigilant’
Chief Executive of CTSI, Leon Livermore, said, "It is abhorrent that unscrupulous individuals are using this difficult time as an opportunity to immiserate others further.
"Consumers should now be extra vigilant and aware of these new scams that take many forms.
"The general rule of scams applies - if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Fake smartphone apps
The CTSI has also asked the public to be wary of ransomware and fake smartphone apps, which claim to provide updates on the virus.
One example, known as CovidLock (which is available through unofficial websites), locks the phone and displays a message demanding that the user pay a sum of money to unlock it.
The fresh warning comes after guidance was issued by the UK's cyber security agency to firms and employees, as they adopt more work from home practices in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.