COVID-19 Omicron Variant Phishing Scam Spotted In UK

by | December 7, 2021 | Cybersecurity News

A new phishing campaign offering fake data-stealing NHS tests is taking advantage of people’s concerns and fear regarding the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Omicron Variant Scam Preying On Your Uncertainty

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, cybercrooks have been finding new ways to turn people’s anxiety into cash. And with the latest COVID-19 variant spreading, scammers hopped on new opportunities to net good money from unsuspecting victims.

With the new variant being supposedly more dangerous than Delta, a new horizon of possibilities has just opened for the bad guys.

In a recent post, U.K. consumer watchdog “Which?” pointed out a new phishing scam, made to appear like official communications coming from the NHS (National Health Service). The malicious campaign targets people with fraudulent offers for free PCR tests for the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization) reported that Omicron was a “variant of concern” of the COVID-19 virus, and warned of its rapid spreading worldwide. According to CBS News, officials aren’t sure yet how effective current vaccines are against the aggressive mutation.

How It Works

Threat actors are contacting people across the U.K. by text messages, emails, or even phone calls, falsely claiming to offer them new PCR tests designed to detect the Omicron variant.

“NHS scientists have warned that the new Covid [sic] variant Omicron spreads rapidly, can be transmitted between fully vaccinated people, and makes jabs less effective,” one phishing email discovered by Which? read. “However, as the new covid [sic] variant (Omicron) has quickly become apparent, we have had to make new test kits as the new variant appears dormant in the original tests.”

If the recipient clicks on the link at the bottom of the email, they will be redirected to a fake NHS webpage that asks for full name, date of birth, address, phone numbers, and email addresses.

In addition to gathering PII (personally identifiable information), the copycat site also demands a £1.24 delivery fee and the victim’s mother’s maiden name, giving the threat actors access to their banking details as well.

These types of scams rely on the victim’s anxiety, so they’re less likely to detect otherwise obvious signs of fraud.

“Phishing attacks and other scams often exploit emotions to get people to react quickly and without thinking things through,” Erich Kron, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, explained. “This new COVID-19 variant has some significant emotional weight for people who are tired of lockdowns and the continuing impact of the pandemic, making it a powerful tool to get people to click.”

Omicron variant phishing scam claims to offer free PCR tests.
Omicron variant phishing email. Credit: Which?
Fake Info-Stealing NHS website. Credit: Which?

The watchdog expects more Omicron variant-based phishing scams to surface in the weeks to come and has submitted its discoveries to the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre).

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Everything being said, would your employees take the bait? Put them to the test with our free security awareness training trial and know for sure!


Threatpost Omicron Phishing Scam Already Spotted in UK

Which? Scam alert: Omicron variant PCR test phishing emails


Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

by Diana Panduru

Content writer for Attack Simulator. Passionate about all things writing and cybersecurity, and obsessed with driving. I sometimes indulge in pencil drawing, poetry, and cooking for fun.

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