Email asking people to pay for Omicron Covid-19 tests is a scam

1 month ago 59

A scam email from a fake NHS email address is being circulated, claiming that the public must take new PCR tests that work with the newly-identified Omicron variant of concern

The NHS has publicly confirmed that these emails are a scam. 

Full Fact received a forwarded version of this email, which was sent from what appears to be an official NHS email address. However, a search for the generic-looking email address returns no direct results

There are a number of red flags in the email that indicate it is not from the NHS, for example the misspelling of Omicron as “Omicorn” and unusual syntax.

Furthermore, we could find no evidence that an Omicron-specific PCR test exists. Guidance from the World Health Organisation states: “The widely used PCR tests continue to detect infection, including infection with Omicron, as we have seen with other variants as well. Studies are ongoing to determine whether there is any impact on other types of tests, including rapid antigen detection tests.”  

The email also claims that people who do not consent to a test for the Omicron variant “must be isolated”. This is not true. 

The link included in the email previously led to a web page—which now appears to be offline —which also included several indications that this was not a legitimate NHS website. The URL on the page misspelt both “health” and “NHS”, the links at the bottom of the page did not work and the text claimed that a payment of £1.24 was needed for delivery. 

Both PCR and lateral flow device Covid-19 home tests are free (apart from in some specific circumstances, like travel), and can be ordered from the UK government site or test providers, not the NHS.

This particular email is just the latest of a number of similar email and text scams over the course of the pandemic, regarding Covid-19 vaccines and financial relief.

A spokesperson for the UK’s fraud and cybercrime reporting centre Action Fraud told Full Fact: “The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details, ask you for your PIN or banking password, arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine [or] ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

“If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk. Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge.

“If you believe you are the victim of a fraud, please report this to Action Fraud as soon as possible by calling 0300 123 2040 or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.” 

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