In January, Which? member Sue thought she’d been invited to get the COVID-19 vaccine, only to realise just in time it was a fake text message. This is her story.
This is a guest post by Which? member Sue Whitney. Which? stands by her views on scams and is helping to spread awareness and warn others.
I’ve been a Which? member for many years and use the site not just for product reviews, but campaigns, news and reading Which? Conversation depending on the latest topics and needs of my family and I at the time. We all recognise it as a valuable source of independent consumer information and advice.
Shortly after the government’s briefings that new tiers of the vaccine were being rolled out, and following the successful campaign of vaccination for 70 and 80+ year-olds, I was eagerly waiting to receive news that it’d be my turn soon.
I have underlying health concerns, so was especially keen to be invited for the jab as soon as possible. I was thrilled late one evening in January to receive a text message stating that I was now eligible, so I followed the link and read through several pages of NHS guidance on the vaccine and possible side effects.
It all seemed very official, using guidance from the NHS site that I recognised, so I started to input my personal details as requested.
It asked for my credit card details
Where I expected it to ask for my National Health number, it instead requested credit card information. This was a red flag to me and immediately raised my suspicion – I knew that no one was going to be required to pay for the vaccine on the NHS.
I stopped going any further on the website and went back for a closer look at the previous pages. It was then that I started noticing numerous spelling mistakes – another sign that everything is not as it seems.
I deleted the message, but couldn’t shake the worry that I may have already given away some personal information.
Reporting the incident to Which?
The following morning I was still concerned about what happened. I felt so frustrated that I’d almost fallen for a scam, so I came to Which? Conversation to report what had happened.
It was here I found that I was far from alone: many others were commenting that they had been, and are still being, lured into this trap.
I felt angry that in this time of pandemic and high levels of vulnerability and anxiety, there were still those out there who were trying to take advantage of others and defraud them. I had a desire to warn others and prevent something so awful from happening to anyone who may also have received the fake text.
And that’s when I got an email from Which?. ITV’s Good Morning Britain had been in touch asking if Which? knew anyone who’d be willing to speak about their experience. I was only too happy to appear on Breakfast television on behalf of consumers!
Bringing these sort of scams to the attention of as many people as possible is one of the best ways of disempowering these fraudsters. I’d ask anyone who receives these scams to not only report them, but warn their friends and family as much as they can.
This was a guest post by Which? member Sue Whitney. Which? stands by her views on scams and is helping to spread awareness and warn others.
We spoke to Rianne Endeley-Brown of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority about what to do if you receive a text message like the one Sue received:
Fraud is not a crime that is always easily spotted- it is insidious in nature. That is why it is always important to remain vigilant, just like Sue has. We recently posted an article about the importance of making sure the NHS is protected so its patients continue to get the care they are entitled to. During the pandemic, there has been a rise in vaccination fraud (people claiming to be from the NHS, asking patients for their banking details to book their vaccinations). Fraudsters are taking advantage of the current times, seeing that the value of care has risen exponentially, they are exploiting the NHS and its patients.
Always remember that the vaccine is free in the UK and available through the NHS. They will never ask for your banking details.