Beware fake COVID vaccine messages, Richmond Council warns

Residents should be wary of fraudulent text messages related to the COVID-19 vaccine, Richmond Council has warned. 

The messages, falsely claiming to be from the NHS, have reportedly told people they’re eligible to apply for the newly-approved Covid-19 vaccine. 

Using NHS lettering, colours and logo, the messages are sent to lure users into disclosing personal information such as bank or credit card details under the guise of offering appointments. 

Leader of Richmond Council, Cllr Gareth Roberts, said: “’If you get a message like this DON’T click on the links. Remember, the NHS, the Council or any official body will NEVER ask you to confirm your bank details.

“And nobody will be asked to register for the Covid-19 vaccination programme – people who are eligible for the vaccine will be contacted by their GP surgery when it is their turn. 

“These scammers are scum. People are scared of catching the virus and the scammers are exploiting those fears to try to steal money from people who fall for their lies.”

The fake NHS messages are the latest in a series of scams themed around the pandemic in circulation since last March, according to the Chartered Trading Standards Institute. 

Katherine Hart, Lead Officer at CTSI said: “The vaccine brings great hope for an end to the pandemic and lockdowns, but some only wish to create even further misery by defrauding others.”

One message shared on social media claimed to be from the NHS and included a link purporting to allow individuals to arrange a vaccine appointment. 

The message reads: “We have identified that your are eligible to apply for your vaccine. For more information and to apply, follow here…”

SCAM: The text that was sent, attempting to lure people into clicking the link

The sophistication of the scams have led to calls for clarification on how to identify whether vaccination messages are fraudulent. 

In a blog post, NHS Sussex wrote: “We are aware that some people are receiving fraudulent calls and text messages offering the Covid-19 vaccination. 

“In some cases, people are asked to press a number on their keypad or to send a text message to confirm they wish to receive the vaccine. 

“The NHS will NEVER ask you to press a button on your keypad or send a text to confirm you want the vaccine, and NEVER ask for payment or for your bank details,” it added.

Richmond Council has produced a guide to identifying scams and urges all residents to read its contents and spread the word. 

If you think you have been the victim of fraud or cybercrime, you can report it to Action Fraud

Police are also hunting a man who injected an elderly woman from Surbiton as part of a COVID-19 vaccine scam.

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