FURTHER warnings have been issued after fraudsters have continued to scam people by exploiting the coronavirus crisis.

Police forces in the North-East have re-issued Action Fraud advice as more than 100 reports have been made about COVID-19 scams.

So far, total losses have reached almost £970,000, with the majority relating to online shopping scams were people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser and other products, which have never arrived.

Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.

There have also been more than 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails, which try to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal information, email logins and passwords, and banking details.

Superintendent Sanjay Andersen, head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said: “Fraudsters will use any opportunity they can to take money from innocent people. This includes exploiting tragedies and global emergencies.

“The majority of scams we are seeing relate to the online sale of protective items, and items that are in short supply across the country, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We’re advising people not to panic and to think about the purchase they are making. When you’re online shopping it’s important to do your research and look at reviews of the site you are buying from.”

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, said: “We have already seen fraudsters using the COVID-19 pandemic to scam people looking to buy medical supplies online, sending emails offering fake medical support and targeting people who may be vulnerable or increasingly isolated at home.

“These frauds try to lure you in with offers that look too good to be true, such as high return investments and ‘healthcare opportunities’, or appeals for you to support those who are ill or bogus charities.

“The advice is simple, think very carefully before you hand over your money, and don’t give out your personal details unless you are sure who you are dealing with.

“We are working together across law enforcement, government and the private sector to combat this criminal activity and protect the public.

"If you think you have been a victim please report to Action Fraud.”

There have been a total of 105 reports to Action Fraud since February 1.

The first report relating to Coronavirus, or COVID-19, was received on 9 February.

There were 20 more reports that month.

Since then, there have been 46 reports between the March 1 and March 13, and 38 reports in just four days between March 14 and 18.

Among the fraudsters are people pretending to be from a research group that mimics the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO), providing lists of active infections that is accessed via a link that redirects them to a credential-stealing page or make a donation through a Bitcoin account.

Fraudsters are also providing articles about the virus outbreak with a link to a fake company website, where victims are encouraged to click to subscribe to a daily newsletter for further updates, or details about investment schemes and trading advice urging people to take advantage of the coronavirus downturn.

Other scammers are pretending to be from HMRC, offering a tax refund and directing victims to a fake website to harvest their personal and financial details.

What is the official advice to avoid scammers?

1) 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.

2) Shopping online:

If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

For more information on how to shop online safely, visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/shoponlinesafely

3) Protect your devices from the latest threats:

Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.

For information on how to update your devices, visit: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/securing-your-devices

For the latest health information and advice about COVID-19 visit the NHS website.