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Beware scam emails and text messages!

THIEVES, too, are working from home. In the past week they've sent your editor and, we hear, several other freelances, messages entitled "Notification of Self-Employment Support Scheme" asking us to "submit the Self-Employment Support Scheme request". These are scams. At the time of writing, SEISS 4 applications were still due to open in late April.

These messages come on top, of course, of the regular crop of generic messages purporting to be from parcel delivery companies or banks with which we do not hold accounts, or offering "government refunds". All of these are what's called "phishing" efforts because they're a bit like fishing for information.

Do not ever click on links in these messages. Their prime goal is to attempt to gather details about you - eventually they want your bank account login. But they may attempt en route to probe your computer to see whether they can install viruses and other malware. Below we give links to two anti-malware programs that we use.

How can I tell?

In all the messages we've had this month, the web link that the thieves want you to click on goes to a website that's may look like that of the organisation it claims to be, but is entirely unconnected with it. The alleged "Self-Employment Support Scheme request" would have taken us to example.com/wp-content/joy.php where example.com stands in for the address of a site that, we assume, has been hacked to install bad stuff.

Usually, a moment's thought will identify phishing emails - "but I'm not expecting any parcels" for example. If you're curious, on an actual computer hover your mouse - without clicking - over the link or button that they want you to click and look at the web address that pops up in a small window. (This generally isn't possible on smartphones.)

The address from which the email seems to have been sent is not informative. It is ridiculously easy to forge. (Ours claimed to come from infos@service.gov.uk - which suggest that English is not the scammer's first language.)

Who can I tell?

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) encourages you to report all scams associated with it: see the link below.

For all scam attempts, police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have set up Action Fraud - see the reporting link below or telephone 0300 123 1240.

Texts and phonecalls too

As HMRC reminds us, scams may start with text messages or phone calls, too. Your bank should already have contacted you to say what kinds of message it will never send.