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‘Utterly despicable’: Warning issued over scam text message offering coronavirus vaccine

Coronavirus vaccination programme
Vaccine rates are slower in Scotland than England, the latest data shows

A scam text message offering a coronavirus vaccine in return for bank details is doing the rounds in Tayside and Fife.

The text, branded despicable and dangerous, tells recipients they are eligible to apply for a vaccine and asks for personal information.

Mid Scotland and Fife Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart has warned constituents not to be taken in by it.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has also issued an alert.

The first doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine are now being rolled out through GP practices, starting with the over 80s.

It follows the launch of the Pfizer vaccine in December.

Local health boards will contact those who are eligible to receive the immunisations by letter.

They will never ask for any bank account details.

Mr Lockhart has been contacted by a number of Fife people alarmed by the rogue alert.

It reads: “We have identified that your are eligible to apply for your vaccine.”

It then provides a link for more information and how to apply.

The link takes people to a bogus website mocked up to look like an NHS page.

It asks for personal information, including name, address and banking details.

“These scams are utterly despicable and show just how low these criminals will go as they prey on fears and anxieties during a public health crisis,” Mr Lockhart said.

“Many people may receive these fake messages and we must make sure that all our family, friends and neighbours are made very aware what to look out for.

“The golden rule is never to send any information requested or click a link.

“Regarding the vaccination programme, a letter will be sent out so ignore this fake text.”

‘Instant red flags’

The phoney messages were first reported in the Western Isles at the end of December.

They have since been sent to people across the UK.

"Warning to all people due to have the Covid vaccine.My dad just got a NHS text telling him to complete a form for his…

Posted by Blairgowrie Community Market on Monday, 4 January 2021

“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,” said CTSI lead officer Katherine Hart.

“The NHS will never ask you for banking details, passwords, or PIN numbers and these should serve as instant red flags.

“Do not provide any information to the scammers, but please also report suspicious messages to Action Fraud, or if in Scotland, Police Scotland, as this provides intelligence and assists authorities in combating scams.”

Police are also investigating.

Chief Inspector Anton Stephenson, of the safer communities division, said: “We will pursue anyone who sets out to cause harm and misery to our communities.

“Our officers work closely with partners to make Scotland a hostile environment for scammers.”

Trying to cash in

The fake text is the latest in a series of scams set up by fraudsters trying to cash in on the coronavirus pandemic.

Others purport to offer tax refunds, council tax reductions, grants and contact tracing information.

There have also been reports of criminals phoning people and asking for payment in return for a vaccine.

The consumer organisation Which has collated information on the various frauds.

It also gives advice on what people should do if they think they have handed their card details to scammers.

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