Isolation diary: Avoiding scams

On 24th March everyone who owns a mobile phone, ie 99.99% of us, got a text message via their network provider which read:

GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT. New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info & exemptions at Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

My phone identified it as suspected spam. Some thought it was a scam. It was neither, as was soon obvious when people caught up with the day’s news.

Since then a number of scams have been reported that have shamefully exploited that initial text. In one case a text that looks very similar to the one from the government tells you that you have been fined for going out too much during lockdown. Another offers you a payment. Both, of course, are phishing scams and are after your bank details.

The consumer magazine Which has a good summary of all the types of coronavirus scams that have been spotted.

Those scammers have done more than con people out of money, bad as that is. They have also confused the messaging, so that people are being sceptical about genuine messages from the government or their health providers.

A couple of weeks ago 900,000 people received texts and letters telling them to adopt the extreme form of social distancing, known as shielding, for 12 weeks. They were identified from national NHS data sources. This week another 600,000 have received the same messages, this time identified by GPs.  My husband received his text this week even though we have, in effect, been practising shielding for three weeks already. The text directs him towards sources of government advice and to the helpline.

It seems some of those who were sent the text thought it was a scam. For a while the government dedicated helpline number was being described as ‘dangerous’ by Who Called Me, on the basis that 8 people had reported it as a scam number. No doubt many others who, quite properly, took care to check out a text that they had not expected, must have been convinced that the text was not genuine. That is very worrying indeed. Be alert, but don’t be misled.



Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Phil Beesley 9th Apr '20 - 6:40pm

    Mary Reid: “On 24th March everyone who owns a mobile phone, ie 99.99% of us, got a text message…”

    I suspect that Mary underestimates the number of informed techno rebels who don’t use mobile phones. I jokingly told a techy mate in the phone business that I’d adopt a phone on the day when Ian Duncan Smith became Prime Minister — so no phone for me.

    I know how to use a mobile or smart phone, but no phone for me, no personal tracking device. Yes, I take the tin foil off my head periodically. Mobile phones are much better — in terms of functionality and personal security — than when I joked with a mate. And the phone operators are S-L-O-W-L-Y getting better. Just not for me.

    How to respond to ‘broadcast messages’ if you do not trust who sent a message?

    The first thing to understand is that nothing is happening quickly today. You will not miss out on benefits by applying too late, because everything is too late. You will just be paid too late.

    Use the radio or telly to check whether a tale is valid. Phone your GP surgery and talk to staff who are better informed about care services.

  • Not a scam ?

    “M.P.s have been offered an extra £10,000 each to support them while they work from home during the coronavirus pandemic”. The Times, 9 April, 2020

    “Now is not the time to discuss a pay rise for nurses”, Matt Hancock, interviewed on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 10th Apr '20 - 10:15am

    @Phil Beesley, You’re not the only one here without a mobile phone. I don’t have one because I have no need for one. What I wonder is, if the government decided that stricter measures must be taken, how would folk like us know if the only way they are informing people is by text to a mobile phone number.

  • Graham Martin-Royle – we also all had a letter from the PM which spelt it out in more detail. I focused on the texts because the scams and misunderstandings that I wanted to highlight were all text based.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 10th Apr '20 - 1:45pm

    @Mary Reid, Actually, no we didn’t. I have received no communication at all from the PM, either in the form of a letter or a text or indeed anything else. I’m beginning to feel unloved 🙂

  • Nonconformistradical 10th Apr '20 - 2:17pm

    @ Graham Martin-Royle
    “I’m beginning to feel unloved”

    This is a man who was seen shaking hands with all and sundry when we were being told not to.

    I wonder where he got the virus. And did he pass it on to his pregnant partner?

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