Unwary members of the public are being urged to be cautious to avoid falling victim to a Covid contact tracing text scam that is currently circulating.
Text messages claiming to be from “TestNTrace” inform receivers that they have been in contact with someone who has contracted the Omicron variant of the virus.
They also contain a false NHS link, with instructions to use that link to obtain a free PCR testing kit.
But what should you do if you receive one of these texts?
Here is everything you need to know.
How does the scam work?
Ultimately, the scam SMS messages target people who are at particular risk of health issues arising from Covid-19 exposure.
With free tests now harder than ever to come by, the chance for freebies may be welcomed by anyone concerned about Covid infection.
When you click the accompanying link, you’ll be taken to a landing page that looks like a typical NHS page - all of the links lead to legitimate NHS websites and information portals too.
“You will only have to pay £0.99 for postage of the kit,” promises the site, before taking you to a page where you can input your personal data.
But DON’T DO THIS.
Does NHS Test and Trace still exist?
Routine contact tracing through NHS Test and Trace ended in England on 24 February 2022 as part of the Government’s “Living With Covid” plan.
And the Government ended its track and trace scheme when it ended the legal requirement to self-isolate back in February.
Because of this, there’s no logical reason as to why a service would be aware that you have been in "close contact" with someone.
The fake website claims that PCR tests are mandatory for those who’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19, but this has not been the case for a number of months now.
“Failure to register could lead to movement restrictions,” explains the bogus website. Since when have “movement restrictions” been a thing?
Since Test and Trace is no longer operational in its ‘traditional’ sense, texts from “TestNTrace” should definitely be ignored.
The real NHS Test and Trace would never have:
- Asked for bank details or payments
- Asked for details of any other accounts, such as social media
- Asked you to set up a password or PIN over the phone
- Asked you to call a premium rate number, such as those started with 09 or 087
What should I do if I clicked on the link?
If you have clicked on the text message’s dud NHS link, don’t panic just yet. There are still steps you can take to protect yourself.
Firstly, if you have accidentally clicked the link, close the web page right away.
Never enter passwords or other personal information on a page that you’ve opened by following a link in an unsolicited text message.
If you have input credit or debit card information, immediately freeze your card (many accounts provide this service) by contacting your card issuer.
Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to Ofcom for free using the number 7726, then deleted.