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NHS most impersonated UK government brand last year


Cybersecurity experts warn that scammers were also quick to respond to changing realities by exploiting topical issues like the cost-of-living crisis.

The National Health Service (NHS) topped the list of government impersonation scams in 2022, according to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of the British intelligence agency GCHQ.

Other government brands the scammers most frequently used to dupe their victims included TV licensing service, HM Revenue & Customs, Gov.uk website, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and Ofgem, the energy regulator.

The scams included phishing emails and messages purporting to be from government agencies, the NCSC said. Cybercriminals sought to trick their targets into visiting malicious websites or downloading malware to steal bank details and other sensitive information.

Fraudsters exploited topical events such as the rising cost of living, the energy crisis, and the pandemic.

“We know cyber criminals try to exploit trends and current affairs to make their scams seem convincing, and sadly our latest data shows 2022 was no exception,” Sarah Lyons, NCSC Deputy Director for Economy and Society Resilience, said.

According to the NCSC, scammers continued to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to attempt PCR test scams but also jumped to new schemes, such as tax rebate and Ofgem energy bill support scams.

“Protecting consumers is our top priority, and it is alarming that vulnerable customers are being preyed upon when people are already struggling so much with energy bills,” Mike Glassey, Ofgem Chief Information Security Officer, said.

Phishing scams are a multi-million-a-year business, and scammers will try to be “super-topical” to increase their chances of defrauding victims, according to Rachel Jones of SnapDragon Monitoring, a company behind a fake-spotting software.

“These scams are rife and very difficult to identify, particularly when we all skim-read sites and buy online so readily,” she said.

NCSC has urged the public to stay alert of scammers using exploitative tactics in 2023 and report suspect schemes to the authorities.


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