/ Scams

Omicron variant fake PCR test emails and texts

Scammers are sending fake emails and texts about the Omicron variant of Covid in order to steal personal data and bank details. Here’s what to look out for.

01/02/2022: Fake Omicron text messages

Following the spate of Omicron related phishing emails we saw at the beginning of December, we’ve been made aware of fake text messages being sent, employing similar tactics:

The NHS does contact people via text in some cases, but would only ever ask you to order a test via the GOV.UK site (https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test). Contact tracing only takes place in England via https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk/

How to tell if a contact tracing text is real

Texts like this linking to sites that have nothing to do with the NHS can be forwarded to 7726 (spells SPAM on a phone keyboard).

Have you received this text or other fake communications relating to the Omicron variant of Covid? Let us know in the comments.

02/12/2021: Phishing emails

Another new fake email attempting to cash in on the confusion and anxiety surrounding the pandemic is doing the rounds, impersonating the NHS and offering ‘a free Omicron PCR today to avoid restrictions’. 

Which? has reported this website to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) but other scam texts, emails and calls related to Omicron are likely to follow suit.

Scammers have used similar tactics throughout the global pandemic, for example, when the vaccine first became available and when the Covid Pass was launched.

Omicron phishing email: what it looks like

Image: thanks to the Marlborough Surgery, Seaham.

Thanks to a member of the public we’ve also seen a slightly different version of the same email, in which the link instead appears as a button:

Fake NHS website

The fake email was also sent to a Which? member from ‘NHS Customer Service’ using the email address ‘contact-nhs[AT]nhscontact.com’. This email address may seem authentic, but it has nothing to do with the genuine NHS.

As well as falsely claiming that the new Covid variant (Omicron) requires new test kits, the email invites readers to visit the site shown in the above image. But clicking the link takes you to the true web address – ‘healt-service-nh.com’ – which is a copycat of the NHS website set up just days ago:

This fake site asks for your full name, date of birth, address, mobile, and email address – more than enough to attempt identity fraud.

As well as requesting a payment of £1.24 for ‘delivery’, it even invites you to provide your mother’s maiden name, as many customers use basic security questions to secure their email and bank accounts:

How to spot and report an NHS scam

Never follow the links in unsolicited texts or emails. If you get a message purporting to be from the NHS, check the details with your GP surgery or NHS service.

You can read more about what to watch out for in our guide to spotting scams. You can then report it to help others:

⚠ You can forward phishing emails to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) at report@phishing.gov.uk.

⚠ You can also report fake websites to the NSCS.

⚠ Fake texts can be forwarded to 7726 (this spells SPAM on the keyboard).

⚠ Use the Which? Scam Sharer tool and sign up for free Which? Scam Alerts.

We shared a copy of the fake email with our contacts at the NHS Counter Fraud Authority. A spokesperson said:

“The mandate of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority is to prevent fraud against the NHS budget. In pursuit of that goal, we are delighted to also support publicity campaigns that help members of the public, including health workers and patients, protect themselves from fraud too.

We applaud the efforts of Which? to fight back against the fraudsters. The same criminals will target individuals AND the NHS, especially during testing times”

What to do if you’ve been scammed

Let your bank know immediately if you’ve divulged your card or account details to scammers. Many banks let you instantly cancel your cards online or via their mobile apps so use this feature if its available.

If the scammers have stolen money, you can follow our guide to getting it back.

Keep an eye on your credit reports to spot potential identity fraud – we explain how to do this for free in our guide. You may also want to consider signing up for a Protective Registration with Cifas, which costs £25 for two years.

You should also change your passwords for any accounts that may have been compromised and set up two-factor authentication wherever possible to provide another layer of protection.

Have you received a fake email relating to the Omicron variant? Have you seen other examples posing as the NHS? Let us know in the comments.

Comments
John Smith says:
18 May 2022

18/05/2022 – “NHS: Please order a test kit due to close conatct with someone who has tested positive for Omicron via: https://omicron.status-1.com” I’m quite a ‘sophisticated’ user who looks out for scams but a recent hospitalisation left me being caught out by this one. They now have me name, address and date of birth. Thankfully didn’t supply any payment details. Just shows how easy it is to be fooled if the circumstances are right!

[Moderator: this website this could be a scam website. We’ve retained the URL to help you identify it, but we’ve redirected the link to our guidance on how to spot fraudulent website. ]

ian stork says:
27 May 2022

got same text this morning from 447568484306 so on commy i went and put in omicron test where i found this site number now blocked as i was nt to sure first of as nearly hit the button

William says:
31 May 2022

NHS-UK HeaIth Department: You’ve been in cIose contact with someone who has recentIy tested positive for Omicron. You must book a PCR test: your-pcr-test.com

Received this via text from +44 7568 440613
07:39 31/05/2022

Clicked link but realised it was a scam before entering anything. Number and site reported. Stay safe.

Heather says:
8 June 2022

I have been caught out by the NHS Omicron phishing scam and provided all the information requested last week thinking I’d been in contact with someone at a wedding. I’ve now been scammed at the bank who have luckily spotted it and refunding me £250 plus stopping further transactions. It looked legitimate at the time. Feeling foolish now.

Cheryl Sokel says:
16 June 2022

Me too. I thought it was genuine because I had been rushed via ambulance to A&E two nights earlier so it could be possible to need testing. I paid for postage of kit so they everything all my details. Stopped bank card. No money been taken yet that I can see.

Lois Unwin says:
12 June 2022

Have just received this text: ” You have been in contact with someone who has recently tested positive for the COVID-19 Omicron Variant. You are required to order a test kit via:
omicron.id-51.com
Luckily my phone couldn’t connect me, so I looked up the site on my computer, and was alerted to the scams. I wasn’t comfortable about it anyway

[Moderator: this website this could be a scam website. We’ve retained the URL to help you identify it, but we’ve redirected the link to our guidance on how to spot fraudulent website. ]

Ian says:
2 July 2022

Got text with a link to the same scam website today, so the site has been running from 12th June till 2/7/22 despite being reported?

Emma says:
13 June 2022

From NHSTestKit
I received a text saying I had been in contact with someone with Omicron and to order a test kit via: nhs.testkit-delivery-uk.com/nhs. It took me through to what looked like the NHS site, and asked for the 99p delivery charge. STUPID ME .. I realised after, i froze my card and have ordered a new one via my banking app.

Jenny says:
14 June 2022

Just had a very convincing text from TraceAlert – fortunately I did some research before responding, but it would have been easy to have been caught out

James Ashton says:
18 June 2022

Received a text today telling me I have been in contact asking me to get my free text kit from omicron id-70.com I deleted the text after checking the site online and of course it does not exist so many scams about feel like going of line for good but will not let them beat us just need to double check every thing now days.

Speed says:
19 June 2022

You’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 (Omicron). You are required to order a PCR test by visiting: health-care-uk.com
But I decided not to bother and came here instead

[Moderator: this website this could be a scam website. We’ve retained the URL to help you identify it, but we’ve redirected the link to our guidance on how to spot fraudulent website. ]

That is a scam website. I will report your post and hopefully Which? will request that it is removed. Here is what you will see if you visit the site:

Order (COVID-19) Omicron PCR test kit
The UK has decided to deploy test kits in response to the risks of the Omicron variant. COVID-19 cases have soared by their highest number since the start of the pandemic as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.

Due to rising cases among fully vaccinated patients, research has shown that it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19 even if you are fully vaccinated.

Order your (COVID-19) Omicron PCR test kit below.

Information:

PCR tests are mandatory and failure to register could lead to movement restrictions and compulsory isolation.

How to request a Free Omicron PCR test?

Note: PCR test kits are free, you will only have to pay £0.99 for postage of the kit. You can order your Omicron pcr test via NHS portal by clicking the button below.

Book my Free PCR Test

Hopefully most people will be aware that they will not be able to get a free PCR test.

Gary Price says:
19 June 2022

I nearly fell for the NHS Text Alert scam yesterday as I’d just woke up it was the first thing I saw. I followed the link and got as far as giving my name, address, DOB and phone number, before becoming suspicious when it asked for my bank card details as I knew NHS.gov.uk would not ask for money. On closer inspection none of the links worked on the web page which ended in .com instead of .co.uk. I also input the website address into Google and found it down didn’t exist. Also I had no alert on the Track and Trace app. It is still a very convincing scam (initially had me fooled) and I wouldn’t be surprised if elderly and vulnerable people, particularly if not so internet savvy fall for this. Is there anyway of finding out who’s behind it I wonder ?

There haven’t been many reports of “elderly and vulnerable people” being taken in by these scams. They seem to catch out the younger age groups who are permanently hitched to a smart phone and believe everything they see on it. I would hope the older age groups will have had all their vaccinations and learnt not to pay attention to these alerts; furthermore, their lifestyles don’t generally bring them into much contact with people outside their bubble.

Christine Chester says:
19 June 2022

I have just received the text saying I have been in close contact with someone with Omicron. I haven’t! Blocked and deleted, as I didn’t think such a message would come from a mobile number.

Jeremy Williams says:
23 June 2022

Received this today saying I had been in contact with someone who tested positive with “the Omicron Variant” and to go to “omicron.id-48.com”. Nearly fell for it until it asked for my bank details. Number was 07305383862

Pat says:
27 June 2022

I had the same Text as everyone else seems to have had on here about having been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the Omicron variant. Unfortunately, my husband had just sent off a PCR test as he’d tested positive in a lateral flow test and I thought this was as a result of that. So fell for it and paid the 99p with card through the link in the text. Fortunately, my bank declined a purchase at TikTok shop that had been tried within minutes of them getting my card details. Card stopped fortunately and wish I’d seen these warnings before I’d compromised my security. Feel foolish now but it looked and sounded plausible. Beware 😳

Dave Crisfield says:
28 June 2022

Received the following text this morning (28/06/22).

“You’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 (Omicron). To heIp control the spread of Omicron, pIease proceed to order a PCR test, visit: health-care-uk.com “

V White says:
1 July 2022

I have just had this email. As I am travelling soon I had been sorting out my COVID certificates and checking on the requirement for travel so half fell for this. I entered phone number, address and DOB but stopped when asked for payment. Only £1.98 so could take people in. Hope, having given so much personal info., I have not compromised my phone.

V White says:
1 July 2022

I mean text not email

D Tal says:
2 July 2022

Text from +44 7305034983 saying: NHS: We are aware that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Omicron. You must order a test kit via: omicron.id-101.com. Looked up the number, looks like a scam message.

This website has been removed. It’s worth forwarding the text to 7726, as suggested by Anthony below. It’s the same number to report all text scams.

Anthony Leay says:
3 July 2022

I have just received similar text regarding Omicron, doesn’t say who it is from, just ‘You’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Omicron. Please continue to order a PCR test by visiting: national-health-uk.com.’

Realised very quickly that it was a scam as no mention of NHS. Forwarded it to 7726.