Image of member of the public being injected with Covid 19 vaccination

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS has been under sustained and increasing pressure, with fraud risks threatening the NHS budget from some new directions. There has also been a surge in fraud affecting the public.

The NHSCFA is playing its part to the full as all NHS bodies rally round to see the country through to better days after the pandemic. NHS staff, whether on the clinical front line or behind the scenes, are working tremendously hard and we support them. However, some people will take advantage of the current situation and we need your help, to ensure the NHS, its frontline workers and patients stay protected from fraud. As the COVID-19 vaccination is being rolled out across the country, there has been a spike in associated scams, asking people to pay to book their vaccinations. Similarly, fake websites have been set up to extract people's bank details at the end of a replicated NHS booking form.

While this lies outside our investigative remit, we want to support NHS staff and patients who could fall prey to these scams. For NHS staff, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) already has some guidance available that details the different Covid-related fraud risks they could be exposed to and where to report any activity that they suspect could be fraudulent.

Advice to protect the public from scams

The number of these scams is relatively low, but they are currently on the rise, particularly text message scams. Messaging around the vaccine is being pushed out to the public to remind them that the NHS will never:

  • ask for, or accept, cash for vaccines
  • ask for your banking details or identity documents
  • turn up at your residence unannounced

If you have received a text message, email or phone call where someone has tried to charge you for the vaccine please report this to Action Fraud, even if you haven't given them any money.

For those who have received an email that they think could be fraudulent, they should report it the Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), launched by the National Cyber Security Centre in partnership with City of London Police. SERS was established in April 2020 and has since received over four million emails from the public, leading to the removal of over 26,000 scams and over 49,000 links to malicious content.

If you believe you are the victim of a fraud relating to the COVID-19 vaccine, please do not report this to the NHSCFA. Please report it to Action Fraud and forward any suspicious emails to the report@phishing.gov.uk. The NHSCFA is only able to look into fraud where the NHS in England and Wales is the victim.”

Case studies

Company offers money in exchange for vaccine – A property investment company emailed GP surgeries in Bristol and Worthing offering to pay money in exchange for unused vaccines from patients who were unable to attend their appointments. The company later stated that their intentions had been ‘misinterpreted'.

Whatever their intentions, it is good to remember that the vaccine is free and cannot be sold privately in the UK. If NHS staff are approached by individuals or organisations looking to purchase the vaccine in exchange for money or gifts, they should report them to Action Fraud.

For more details see Coronavirus: Company's apology after £5,000 vaccine offer - BBC News.

Fake vaccinations – As reported by the BBC, a man accused of allegedly tricking a 92-year-old woman out of £160 for a fake coronavirus vaccination has been charged with fraud and common assault. He is accused of administering the fake vaccine at her Surbiton home in London last month. He is charged with five offences including fraud and going outside in a tier four area without a good reason. He denied the charges when he appeared before magistrates and was remanded in custody until a hearing on 12 February.

In the UK, coronavirus vaccines are free of charge and available via the NHS.

NHS staff will never turn up at a patient's home unannounced and will not ask for payment. If NHS visits are necessary, they will be agreed with the patient directly, or through carers.