Beware of COVID-19 scams
Unscrupulous criminals are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to prey on members of the public, particularly older and vulnerable people who are isolated from family and friends. National Trading Standards is warning people to remain vigilant following a rise in coronavirus-related scams that seek to benefit from the public’s concern and uncertainty over COVID-19.
Members of the public should ignore scam products such as supplements and anti-virus kits that falsely claim to cure or prevent COVID-19. In some cases individuals may be pressurised on their own doorsteps to buy anti-virus kits or persuaded into purchasing products that are advertised on their social media feeds. In addition, some call centres that previously targeted UK consumers with dubious health products are now offering supplements that supposedly prevent COVID-19.
Communities are also being urged to look out for signs of neighbours being targeted by doorstep criminals. While there are genuine groups of volunteers providing help during self-isolation, there have been reports of criminals preying on residents – often older people or people living with long-term health conditions – by cold-calling at their homes and offering to go to the shops for them. The criminals often claim to represent charities to help them appear legitimate before taking the victim’s money. There are genuine charities providing support, so consumers should be vigilant and ask for ID from anyone claiming to represent a charity.
COVID-19 scams identified include:
- Criminals targeting older people on their doorstep and offering to do their shopping. Thieves take the money and do not return.
- Doorstep cleansing services that offer to clean drives and doorways to kill bacteria and help prevent the spread of the virus.
- Email scams that trick people into opening malicious attachments, which put people at risk of identity theft with personal information, passwords, contacts and bank details at risk. Some of these emails have lured people to click on attachments by offering information about people in the local area who are affected by coronavirus.
- Fake online resources – such as false Coronavirus Maps – that deliver malware such as AZORult Trojan, an information stealing program which can infiltrate a variety of sensitive data. A prominent example that has deployed malware is ‘corona-virus-map[dot]com’.
- Companies offering fake holiday refunds for individuals who have been forced to cancel their trips. People seeking refunds should also be wary of fake websites set up to claim holiday refunds.
- Fake sanitisers, face masks and Covid19 swabbing kits sold online and door-to-door. These products can often be dangerous and unsafe. There are reports of some potentially harmful hand sanitiser containing glutaral (or glutaraldehyde), which was banned for human use in 2014.
- As more people self-isolate at home there is an increasing risk that telephone scams will also rise, including criminals claiming to be your bank, mortgage lender or utility company.
- There have been reports of thieves extorting money from consumers by claiming they are collecting donations for a COVID-19 ‘vaccine’.
- Illegal money lenders are expected to prey on people’s financial hardship, lending money before charging extortionate interest rates and fees through threats and violence.
People are being encouraged to protect their neighbours by joining Friends Against Scams, which provides free online training to empower people to take a stand against scams. To complete the online modules, visit the Friends Against Scams website.
NTS is also issuing urgent advice to help prevent people falling victim to COVID-19 scams through its Friends Against Scams initiative.
Members of the public are being urged to keep in contact with family members regularly and inform them of the most prolific scams and the possible dangers to them. If someone has been targeted by a scam it can be reported to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040. For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, visit the Citizen Advice website.
You can also avoid being the victim of scam by using a business you know you can trust. Take a look at our Trading Standards Accredited (TSA) website where you will find details of local businesses who are signed up to the scheme. All businesses are checked by Trading Standards and must have relevant insurances, they also sign up to the TSA Code of Practice. In the unlikely event of a problem, the TSA team will work with the customer and member to agree a resolution.
The website is easy to use, search for a member by business category or there’s a handy A-Z. Simply enter your postcode, choose a trade area and your search results will be listed based on members nearest you. If you do not have access to the internet please telephone our contact centre on 01952 381818 and we will carry out the search for you. You don’t have to be a Telford and Wrekin resident, everyone is welcome to use the TSA scheme.
Reduce the number of unwanted callers knocking at your door by displaying a copy of our no cold calling sign. Download and print off a copy at home and display it where someone intending to knock at your door would easily spot it. Alternatively, pick up a ‘self sticking’ copy from the following locations:
- Southwater One
- Darby House
- Citizens Advice, Wellington
- Brookside, Woodside and Sutton Hill Community Centres
- Newport Library.
To learn more about scams and to help raise awareness, we invite you to take a stand against scams and check out the National Trading Standards Scams Team 'Friends Against Scams' campaign.
Other useful links to help you beat the scammers:
- Citizens Advice - spotting scams and how to report them
- Action Fraud - current scams/frauds and how to report them
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - guidance on financial related scams and how to be a ScamSmart investor
- The Pensions Regulator - pension related scams and how to avoid them
- Get Safe Online - wide ranging advice to stay safe online
- Think Jessica - campaign to raise awareness of scam mail.
Register to reduce the amount of unwanted and unsolicited marketing you receive: