UCL News


Staying safe during the coronavirus crisis

26 March 2020

In recent weeks, we have seen the whole of the UK come together in support of each other during the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately, there are those who may seek to manipulate the current situation and attempt to exploit people who are trying to protect themselves and others.

Cruciform Building

To ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of our community, the Metropolitan Police have made us aware of a new trend of scams relating to coronavirus and how you can avoid these and stay safe, both online and at home.

We want to reassure you that this information is being shared to ensure our community’s safety, so please do read it and follow the advice given below.

Online shopping

The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. There are also fraudsters trying to collect these items saying they will donate them to hospitals but actually sell them online.

Phishing emails

These attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments which fraudsters use to steal personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details.

Here are some real life examples:

  • Fraudsters claiming to be from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO). They claim to provide you with a list of active infections in your area but to access information you need to click on a link which redirects you to a credential-stealing page.
  • Fraudsters providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website where people are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter.
  • Fraudsters sending investment scheme and trading advice encouraging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.
  • Fraudsters purporting to be from HMRC offering a tax refund and directing people to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details.

Protect yourself

Please follow these simple tips to stay safe:

  • Watch out for scam messages – don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.
  • Be careful about online shopping – if you are going to make a purchase from an online shop you haven’t used before do some research and make sure it is a legitimate site. If you go ahead please use a credit card so you have insurance protecting the transaction.
  • Protect your devices – make sure you have downloaded the latest anti-virus software to protect your devices from malware and other potential threats.
  • Be careful at home. NHS staff are not going door to door. Call the Police if someone knocks on your door claiming to be conducting coronavirus tests. Do NOT let them in to your home or accommodation. Any contractors or cleaners should have their own access so please do not let them onto UCL property without checking with Security on 020 7679 2222.

If you have been affected by fraudulent activity related to coronavirus or you are worried about contact that appears to be phishing go to https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ for information, advice and to report a scam.

Available support from UCL

For further information and confidential advice you can speak to UCL’s Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Advisor, Sophie Bimson by emailing s.bimson@ucl.ac.uk.

For students, UCL's team of expert staff in Student Support and Wellbeing (SSW) provide a safe, confidential and non-judgemental space, in which you can discuss any issues that concern or affect you. Students can also access confidential emotional support, advice, and information through UCL's 24/7 Student Support Line 

UCL staff  can access confidential emotional support, advice, and information through UCL's  Employee Assistance Programme: Staff Support Service.