Organised crime groups have developed a new phishing lure to fool people into handing over their financial details by claiming they have been selected to receive a treatment, exploiting the UK's successful vaccination rollout.
Unlike many COVID-19 phishing email campaigns, the new criminal effort is linking through to websites convincingly designed to resemble official government domains and written without any spelling errors, according to email security business Mimecast.
"The NHS is performing selections for coronavirus vaccination on the basis of family genetics and medical history," the phishing lure falsely states, before inviting the potential victim to click a link to accept and book their vaccination.
The scam may be convincing for people due the design of the email and of the phishing website, as well as the credible sounding claims of the new selection criteria for the NHS.
The fake website which the email links to is designed to harvest the victims' personal information, including their name, data of birth, and financial card details.
These could either be directly used for fraud by the criminals or they could sold on in bulk for other criminals to take advantage of.
It precedes the government on Tuesday announcing that around 1.7 million more people will be added to the shielding list in England after a new algorithm identified them as being at serious risk from the virus.
But the government's identification is based on multiple factors including age, ethnicity, body mass index, other health conditions and also postcode, which is indicative of levels of deprivation - not family genetics or generic medical history.
Carl Wearn, a former Metropolitan Police officer and now the head of cyber investigation at Mimecast, told Sky News: "The pandemic has meant organised criminals have had to find new ways ways to make money."
Mr Wearn said that Mimecast had been tracking the organised criminals behind the current campaign, although they were not able to offer an attribution to Sky News.
But he said they were normally known for small, targeted campaigns, and that the convincing design of the messaging suggests the criminals believed their investment in a more credible scam would end up paying out more than if they had used a less believable lure but sent it to more people.
Despite that, Mimecast says it has seen this group - which specialises in low-volume targeted attacks, with previous phishing campaigns claiming to be from delivery services, online television subscriptions and even UK council tax - send out almost five times as many phishing emails as it has done in previous campaigns.
Mr Wearn warned: "Don't click on suspicious links and never open unexpected email attachments. If you're concerned about whether a vaccine information is legitimate, call your GP or take an independent route to check the website."
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