UK users targeted by malicious, fake contact tracing text messages

Google Messages and iMessage
Google Messages and iMessage (Image credit: Joe Maring / iMore)

What you need to know

  • Scammers are reportedly preying on the UK's upcoming contact tracing app.
  • UK mobile users are receiving malicious texts, falsely stating they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms.
  • The attack could be used to steal personal information, or compromise bank accounts.

A report suggests that scammers have already starting targeting UK mobile users with fake, malicious contact tracing warnings before the UK's contact tracing app has even been released to the public.

As Independent reports:

A text scam is trying to scare people into believing they could have contracted COVID-19.The false message tells them that they have been near someone who has shown symptoms for the disease and that they should get tested.But if they are to follow the instructions in the message, the scam will actually just try to steal their personal information.

The message in question reportedly states:

"Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for Covid-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested."

The message includes a website link, encouraging people to submit personal information.

The UK's contact tracing app remains in the very early stages of testing, and has only been issued to members of the public in the Isle of Wight. As such, no one else in the UK could possibly have been in contact with someone in this manner, because the app hasn't been released yet. If you receive a text of this nature, you should absolutely not click on any links, or hand over any personal information. The text messages were spotted by the UK's Chartered Trading Standards Institute, and the report notes that they "appear as though they were sent by an official source associated with the app." CTSI lead officer Katherine Hart stated:

"I am especially concerned that scams themed around the contact tracing app are already appearing, even though the official NHS app has only been released in a limited testing phase on the Isle of Wight.These texts are a way to steal personal data and may put the bank accounts of recipients at risk."

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9